Our own Jens Laurson, in a recent survey of recordings of the four solo cantatas for alto composed by Bach, pointed to this new release from Bernarda Fink as a good option for those inclined against countertenors. We have been quite taken by many of Fink's recordings and were predisposed to enjoy this recording. So, I have been surprised while listening to it to find myself not that happy with it. The grain of woody vibrato, adding dark heft to her Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito or her Phèdre in Hippolyte et Aricie, here seems to go against the purity of the texts she is singing. Fink has recorded Bach before, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner, and René Jacobs, all to good effect, but bad form at the recording sessions or a nervousness about carrying the performance alone seems to have colored the suavity of her line. This is the latest in a bevy of solo Bach discs from singers at the moment, including others by Natalie Dessay and David Daniels, but none of them has been a knockout. The best part of this disc is the playing of the Freiburger Barockorchester, directed by violinist Petra Müllejans, with really fine obbligato solos from various members. The Vocalconsort Berlin is sturdy on their portion, the simple chorales that conclude the cantatas. When Fink is on, as she is in many of the tracks, it is quite lovely, but something about the tone does not convince my ears of the withdrawing from the world described in the texts.
Bach Solo Cantatas (BWV 35, 169, 170), B. Fink, Freiburger Barockorchester,
dir. P. Müllejans
(released on February 10, 2009)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 902016