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Harry Christophers and The Sixteen’s second volume of J. S. Bach’s Lutheran Masses maintains the high standards of the first volume, reviewed in the previous issue of EMT. As before, two masses frame the cantata from which significant amounts of their musical material is drawn – in this case BWV 236 and BWV 234 enfold BWV 79, Gott der Herr ist Sonn’ und Schild. For example, the alto aria ‘Quoniam tu solus’ in BWV 234 is musically identical to the obbligato oboe solo in the second movement of Cantata 79, except that the accompanying strings are an octave lower in the latter.

Christophers’ decision to include only eight voices in this recording results in a limpidity of texture entirely appropriate to the polyphonic coloratura of the tutti movements. There are surely few other chamber ensembles that are capable of achieving such equality of line between the vocal and the instrumental. The subtlety achieved by horn players Anneke Scott and Joseph Walters in BWV 79’s chorale ‘Nun danket alle Gott’ is particularly remarkable. All members of The Sixteen are equally at home as soloists and choral singers, but the coordination between soprano Julia Doyle and bass Eamonn Dougan in ‘Gott, ach Gott’ stands out, down to individual flicks of vibrato. This is a very fine recording of these lesser- known works.

Nicholas Bown Read the full review on Agora Classica

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