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Bach’s reputation as a transhistorical, monolithic genius of essentially spiritual music has deafened us to his secular and popular work. To our cost. These lovely cantatas, mostly to libretti by his friend Picander, have been sorely neglected. The words aren’t deathless, but some of the music is, and if there’s a love- lier air than Tmolus’s ‘Phöbus, deine Melodei’ in BWV 201 Der Streit zwischen Phöbus und Pan (sung by Fabio Trümpy here), it hasn’t been found yet. The other pieces are BWV 205 Der zufriedengestel- lete Äolus (‘Aeolus Pacified’) from 1725, and BWV 213 Die Wahl des Herkules (‘Herkules’s Choice’ or ‘At the Crossroads’), which was written in 1733 for the Prince Elector’s birthday and performed in a coffee-house garden. Alarcón and his singers deliver these pieces with vivid presence and a sumptuous orchestral accompaniment that lifts them out of the ordinary and out of their ‘moment’ as occasional music. They still sing down the ages, and if the tone is unfamiliarly light for ‘J.S. Bach’, it is salutary to be reminded of this side of his musical nature.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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