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Bach Motets

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (BWV 225)
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (BWV 226)
Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 227)
Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir (BWV 228)
Komm, Jesu, komm (BWV 229)
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden
(BWV 230)
Ich lasse Dich nicht, du segnest mich denn (BWV Anh. 159)


The Hilliard Ensemble
Joanne Lunn soprano
Rebecca Outram soprano
David James countertenor
David Gould countertenor
Rogers Covey-Crump tenor, organ
Steven Harrold tenor
Gordon Jones baritone
Robert Macdonald bass

ECM New Series 1875 476 5776 [Recorded November 2003]


Predictable, but that means predictably good. Crisp, clear performances of pieces that have always been revered by composers and cognoscienti. Lunn and Outram are ideal Bach sopranos; the overall effect is firmly within the English tradition of choral singing, with clear diction and impeccable intonation.


An informative booklet essay reminds us that five out of the seven motets were written for funerals, but Bach was paid significantly less than the vicar for conducting, and forbidden to claim double his fee by scheduling two motets...


The context of these works reminds us of how versatile Bach's art was. The Motets are unaccompanied because they were written for situations where there could be no instruments. Bach's intimate contact with death is not only a symptom of a less hygienic, sterilised age, and of his extremely wide experience of personal bereavement, but also of course part of his job. Astonishingly to us, he was even required to release to view every public execution the choirboys who would have sung these motets. This was an actual clause in his Leipzig contract.


In Bach's time, motets were beneath cantatas in the pecking order, regarded as simpler to sing, but Bach's efforts are characteristically technically complex. The Hilliards rise effortlessly to the challenge, such as the problematic fugue of Fuerchte dich niche BWV228, or the grandeur of the best-known, Jesu Meine Freude BWV227.


Gordon Jones may be miffed that instead of listing him in the inside cover of the booklet, they have put Joanne Lunn's name twice. This is corrected on the cover, but only by a sticky label.

No-one else need have any complaints; this disc goes straight to the head of a long list of recommendable performances.


Ying Chang