A handful of Bachs served in less than an hour and by the lady herself, gorgeous Czech mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozená. Those are promising prospects, if you ask me.
As soon as this new CD opens, with Johann Christoph Bach's enormously expressive 'Ach, dass ich Wassers g'nug hätte', threatening to come off at the seams by way of sheer passionate melancholy, you feel engrossed in this music, at the edge of your seat. Dynamically Kozená challenges the music almost to breaking point, and purists might, just might, want to discuss whether this is the exact idiomatic way to handle this music, but whichever way you look at it, is is deeply moving.
Not all the rest of the material on the CD lives up to the spectacular opening. It doesn't seem at all self-evident what to do with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's bland 'Selma', a piece that was even written for a higher soprano than Kozená's. Johann Christoph Friedrich's almost Mozartian 'Die Amerikanerin' is hardly great music either.
The lamento, the poignancy of Johann Sebastian Bach's arrangement of Conti's Catholic 'Languet anima mea' has immediacy, healthy energy and lovely detail, and is, like everything else on the CD, marvellously sung and interpreted in a highly individualistic fashion. Listen to the aria 'Tu lumen mentis es' with Kozená in dialogue with gut-strings that have truly been blessed from above. As usual conductor Reinhard Goebel and his ensemble never caress you with their sound, but rather emphasize musical issues eloquently, so you are seduced, almost unwillingly.
I hardly need to make a case for Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Vergnügte Ruh', also included here. You can disagree with tempi here, but it is great music, done with wonderful pathos and urgency.