For the second time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents four Bach cantatas written during the first year the composer spent in Leipzig. In relation to the repertoire composed in Weimar, the instrumentarium is enlarged to adapt to the size of the churches of Saint Thomas and Saint Nicholas. But, above all, the instrumental virtuosity is much greater, as are the vocal demands confronting the choirs and solo singers, trained at the time by Bach himself. The Collegium Vocale Gent, under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe and in the company of top-notch soloists (Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs and Peter Kooij), show us in dazzling fashion to what point the composer endeavoured to create veritable musical sermons going far beyond a simple musical setting of the text. By way of a bonus, the album contains a magical little piece, Komm, Jesu, komm by Johann Schelle, one of Bach's predecessors in Leipzig.
Bach's cantatas include some of the most astonishing, visionary music in existence, and one marvels at the dedication with which he turned out one a week in his early Leipzig years. Philippe Herreweghe, who was involved in the great Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series in the 1970s, has developed a light, crisp, agile style with his Collegium Vocale Gent. Neither drivingly rhythmic like John Eliot Gardiner's cycle, nor thin like some of the one-to-a-part versions, it is deftly poised and dancing: try Dorothee Mields in the hypnotically beautiful soprano aria Es ist und bleibt from Cantata 44, or the buoyant and elaborate chorus which unusually ends Cantata 109. A tiny bonus is Komm, Jesu komm by Johann Schelle, showing the simple roots from which Bach grew.Nicholas Kenyon-1 June 2014. --The Observer