Dunedin Consort - Bach: Ich habe genug - The Times
Johann Sebastian Bach is BBC Radio 3’s composer of the week. Given the size and weight of his achievements, he could be the composer of every week: there aren’t many basic human activities, from dying to enjoying coffee, that his music hasn’t illuminated ... if you want the deepest emotional experience, your choice must be the Edinburgh-based Dunedin Consort and its director, John Butt, performing three church cantatas obviously picked and recorded with coronavirus in mind.
All are tethered to Christian texts and beliefs concerning death and the afterlife, although the music’s affective qualities transport the listener well beyond matters of faith and doctrine. Take the wonderful sense of calm and bliss radiating from the central aria in Ich habe genug, BWV 82: a perfect keepsake for frenzied times. The cantata’s final movements, vibrating with communal joy, equally refresh the spirits.
Butt’s intimate forces — two principal singers, 14 instrumentalists — ensure winning clarity and immediate impact. The soprano Joanne Lunn, heard in Liebster Jesu, BWV 82, and the early Actus Tragicus, BWV 106, imparts feeling in every word, even when she’s soaring high. The bass Matthew Brook isn’t far behind in eloquence. Neither are the wriggling solo oboes, florid violins and cooing recorders that speckle this musical feast. Of all the Covid-inflected albums that have come my way, this straightforward release has been the most touching and comforting.