Anyone new to Bach cantatas may suspect that this facet of his work might not represent JSB at his best. The obligation to churn out cantatas so regularly (for the Sunday Lutheran service) seems a sure way of sapping anyone's energies and spreading any inspiration far too thinly. This assumption would be completely wrong. The cantatas very often show Bach at his most creative, and six superb examples are on this disc.
Cantata BWV73 is one that manages to sustain the listener's interest throughout. Admittedly, it is one of the shorter cantatas (TT: 13'43 on this recording), but its two arias and two chorales engage the listener from the first bars, with its arresting, rhythmic motif. And the same can be said of other works on this double CD - BWV131 and BWV105 are similarly overflowing with melody and invention.
The style of singing on display here though is varied. Whist Peter Kooy's bass seems better suited to the string ensemble around him, Barbara Schlick's soprano is too operatic for me, with a vibrato that seems uncomfortably fast. Even the excellent Peter Kooy is not entirely above reproach. His recitative, 'Wohl aber dem' in BWV105, is conspicuous for an incessant rolled 'r' which is a much more Mediterranean trill of a sound than Bach probably intended. (This trilling, together with excessive vibrato, is suggestive of Italian high opera, while the music seems to call for something more akin to the purity of plainsong.)
At the budget end of the spectrum, however, this recording represents superb value. Even if arguably not quite in the top drawer, there are gems here to warrant much replaying, and the CD is an ideal introduction to the transcendent cantata repertoire of Bach. In its choice of tempi, quality of orchestral playing and, on balance, vocal performances (Kooy especially) this is a disc that will be hard to beat.