The latest recording of Bach Cantatas of the Flemish Conductor Philippe Herreweghe underlines again that this former Doctor of Psychology helps with a deep understanding of the Bach liturgical work to open this often difficult work to all listeners.
In this case "Jesu Deine Passion" (Jesus, your Passion) he takes four Cantatas all meant for the last Sunday before Lent and puts them in a relation that is of high intellectual and psychological interest. It paints an full color Altar Piece of a Via Dolorosa before the cross, the inner fight of Christ and the Soul on the long way to the cross.
This makes sense in many directions. Namely as in Bachs Times during Lent for four weeks there were no Cantatas played on the Sundays And these four Cantatas allow the listeners either to fill these Sundays with wonderful musical reflections on stations to the cross or even - listened to them in the contents - give view on the inner world that makes Christ take the cross and us to understands its liberating power.
The first Cantata "Jesu nahm zu sich die Zwoelfe" BWV 22 ("Jesus took unto him the Twelve") starts with the Evangelist reporting the fact that Jesus goes to Jerusalem with his disciples. Immediately the Soul answers in a wonderful aria and asks Jesus to let her join ("Mein Jesu ziehe mich zu Dir" - "Jesus draw me unto thee") and later the tenor Aria ("Mein Alles in allem" - "My all in all") reflects already on the healing power of this sacrifice to "better the heart" and lead away from the easy fun in the world.
The second Cantata "Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn" BWV 23 - "Thou very God and David's Son" makes us meet the beggar sitting at the Via Dolorosa, the road to Jerusalem begging Jesus to help his misery. It is us sitting there, this clears Bach in the next Recitative when he let the soul pray: "Do not pass me by" - "Ach ziehe nicht vorueber".
And a big choral prayer following: "Aller Augen warten Dein o Herr" - "They eyes of all Lord wait upon thee" - the position of us being dependent on the salvation. This is followed by "Christ the Lamb of God" - a Choral Fantasy reminding on the Chorus in the Mathew Passion finalizing the first party "O Mensch bewein Dein Suende gross". The soul musically sees the cross shining at the end of this psychological way.
Here are bystanders on this way, laughing and spitting so the third Cantata "Herr Jesu Christ wahr' Mensch und Gott" BWV 127 "Lord Jesus Christ true man and God" puts Jesus already in the hands of the soldiers and gives a glimpse of the "Ecce Homo" - the Crown of thorns put on his head in front of the masses shouting for the crucifixion. Herreweghe conducts this choral with stringent hard und hurting accords by flutes and oboes who hit and spite around.
The Recitative following paints a picture of the sweat on the dead body of Christ and all of us and frightens in the next bass accompangnato with the judgment day. But this accompagnato lead in the final part to a wonderful vision of the resurrection with the powerful sound of "Though heaven and earth will perish in fire - yet shall a believer live forever".
The last Cantata leads us right under the cross. Now it is the Vox Dei, the Voice of Jesus himself announcing "Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem" BWV 159 ("We go up to Jerusalem") in order to fulfill all the prophecies. This is told in a Duet with the Alto Voice (wonderful and deep felt by Mathew White" - always the Allegory of the "Daughter of Zion" in Bach's Cantatas or the Human soul that asks what will be the fate when going up to Jerusalem and if this is not more a "way to hell..."
In the following Aria "Ich folge Dir nach" - "I will follow you" the Alto stands by its words and the soul will follow to the cross accompanied by the Soprano with the Choral line "Ich will hier bei Dir stehen" - "I will stand by you" mostly dedicated to the Voice of peter who after the betrayal still stays with Jesus until his death - the same situation in this cantata like in the famous Mathew Passion.
Finally the Vox Christi fulfills with the Aria "Es ist vollbracht" - "It is finished" - his words on the Cross when dying. And the Choral "Jesus Deine Passion" - "Jesus your Passion" finalizes this remarkable and outstanding collection of Bach Cantatas on the latest recording of Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Ghent.
The soloist are the who is who of modern young Bach Singers of the best: Dorothea Mields, Soprano, Mathew White, Alto, Jan Kobow - in my opinion one of the most amazing Tenor Voices of our times also known from his Himmlische Cantorei - and one of the best bass voices always working with Herreweghe as well as with Massaki Suzuki, Peter Kooy.
This is far more than simply another Bach Cantatas recording. Herrwegehe and his fantastic musical team allow a Meditation for the Passion time that is deep felt and full of spirit and understanding for the fear, the pain and the liberation of the Passion Message that never grows old.