Although I am very attached to traditional readings of Bach by the likes of Richter, Gönnenwein, Forster and Scherchen of the kind that make HIPsters break out instantly in hives, I am by no means averse to more recent, scholarly and informed performances as long as they do not exude the rushed, glacial, joyless chill too prevalent amongst the sternest modern practitioners. So it is usually to Herreweghe that I turn when I want to hear the perfect balance between sensitivity to both period practice and the emotional demands of the music - and once again, he comes up trumps here.
Herreweghe's gift is to retain the flexibility to permit the music's frequent dance rhythms to emerge. In this 1994 recording, in first rate sound, he uses his customary small orchestra and choir, the Collegium Vocale, but there is nothing mean or clipped about their sound. Bach had no qualms about recycling secular cantatas for liturgical purposes (although never the other way round) and his music was grounded in dance forms. Although only a "little" oratorio at just over forty minutes, its range is surprising. We have a sprightly Sinfonia, a plaintive Adagio with wonderful solo passages for the oboe and a virtuoso arias for the soprano and the tenor both accompanied by flutes. The "Schlummer" ("sleep") aria is a frequently recurring feature in Bach's idiom, the most famous perhaps being "Schlummert Ein" from BWV 82a "Ich habe genug", and it is here sung sweetly and steadily by tenor James Taylor. Soprano Barbara Schlick is also pure and warm of tone. Countertenor Kai Wessel is impressive in his aria (wrongly designated in the booklet as a duet with the soprano); no squawking or hootiness but agile and very well tuned. The bass Peter Kooy has less to do here although he comes into his own for the second half of the programme, the sacred cantata "Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen", in which he has his own aria. His voice is nothing special but unobjectionable, even if he is occasionally tempted into aspirating his runs - alwyas a vocal technical no-no.
I don't think BWV 66 is as distinguished as the oratorio but most people will welcome it as an unusual filler. I advise prospective purchases to watch out for bargain import prices on Marketplace. I had no recording of this piece before and I am indebted to the recommendations from previous Amazon reviewers.
The presentation of this disc is especially attractive with a silver and black slipcase adorned with a detail from a Dürer drawing.