The complete cantata recordings of a Bach conductor who defined performance standards of these works in his day, newly remastered and compiled together for the first time on CD.
In the generation of Bach interpreters before Karl Richter who brought his cantatas to an international audience, the name of Fritz Lehmann stands out: and indeed might still have eclipsed Richter but for his early death in 1956, at the age of just 51 and significantly just before the stereo era would move recorded music into a new era.
Lehmann’s recorded legacy is nonetheless significant on its own terms, made mostly for Deutsche Grammophon and encompassing the Brahms’ ‘German Requiem’ and a ‘Christmas Oratorio’ which he was recording at the time of his death, completed by Günther Arndt and reissued by Eloquence (482 7637).
Of even greater historical significance, however, was the sequence of cantata recordings which he made between 1950 and 1952 for DG’s then-new Archiv imprint of early and Baroque music. Listening to the sonorous and noble solo singing in particular, few would claim these recordings to accord with ‘historically informed’ principles of performance as we understand them but only the most doctrinaire of listeners will resist the many charms of Lehmann’s approach. The Berlin Motettenchor is a superbly disciplined vocal ensemble of evidently young voices and from the ranks of the Berliner Philharmoniker come obbligato instrumental solos of an eloquence still to rival any recording in the catalogue (such as the oboist accompanying Gunthild Weber in the heart-stopping aria ‘Wie zittern und Wanken’ from BWV 105,’Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht’).
Lehmann’s choice of cantatas is also notably judicious: every single one of the works here, finds Bach in inspired form while avoiding the well-trodden territory of ‘Wachet auf’ or ‘Ich habe genug’. There is the youthful ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ which Bach returned to throughout his career; then ‘Ich hatte viel Bekummernis’, perhaps his earliest extended masterpiece in any form; and mature Leipzig-era works of still-breathtaking ingenuity and beauty such as ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ and ‘Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht’.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1
Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4
Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19*
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis BWV 21*
Gott der Herr ist Sonn’ und Schild, BWV 79*
Meine Seele rühmt und preist, BWV 189*
Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39*
Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht, BWV 105*
Vergnügte Ruh’, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170
*FIRST CD RELEASE ON DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
Recording Producer: Dr. Fred Hamel
Balance Engineers: Karl-Heinz Westphal (BWV 1, 19, 21, 79); Heinrich Keilholz (BWV 4, 170, 189); Heinrich Keilholz, Karl-Heinz Westphal (BWV 39, 105)
Recording Locations: Johanniskirche, Göttingen, Germany, 31 July–2 August, 1950 (BWV 4); Bavaria-Filmateliers (Halle 4), Munich, Germany, 3 August 1951 (BWV 189); Amerikahaus, Theatersaal, Munich, Germany, 24–26 October 1951 (BWV 170); Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 9 June 1952 (BWV 19), 10 June 1952 (BWV 1), 11 June 1952 (BWV 21), 12 June 1952 (BWV 39), 13 June 1952 (BWV 79), 15 June 1952 (BWV 105)
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original LP Releases on Archiv: 13018 (BWV 1); 14005 (BWV 19, 79); 14007 (BWV 21); 14028 (BWV 170, 189); 14079 (BWV 4); 14080 (BWV 39, 105)
‘Fritz Lehmann adopts a slower tempo [than Mogens Woldike], which I personally prefer, and gives, in general, a more sensitive and imaginative treatment of this beautiful cantata.’ (BWV 105) Gramophone
‘Listening to Fritz Lehmann’s performances today I am struck by his perceptive choice of tempi which, although often tending towards the slow, are generally effective and are kept alive by the rhythmic pulse of his direction … In each of these works Lehmann captures its spirit and its individual imagery with perception and refinement.’ Early Music