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All six Motets BWV 225 to 230 are arranged in order by Frieder Bernius in his recording, which also incorporates the short Ich lasse dich nicht (159 from the appendix), now less believably the work of Bach’s maternal uncle. The Swedish choir under Graden’s direction also includes BWV 118 in a graceful, pulsating performance using the second version Bach made for strings and the two oboes with which Graden replaces the ancient litui. This shows off the REbaroque ensemble at its best, though in the altogether more restrained performances by the Stuttgart Chamber Choir (27 voices, as against graden’s 40) a more discreet instrumental accompaniment supporting and shadowing the voices in the two most substantial motets may seem much more preferable. Graden has a greater interest in strong dynamic contrasts, and in Jesu, meine Freude his more relaxed tempi also add greater comfort and clarity to the performances. In the opening double chorus of Singet dem Herrn the monochrome dynamic and lively tempo taken by Bernius sacrifices some of the clarity gained by Graden. BWV 228, Fürchte dich nicht, might have been the kind of dramatic writing that would please Handel, but Bernius’s approach is too lightweight for that text; and Lobet den Herrn (BWV 230), which is given a driving vitality by the Swedes, would alert its listeners better than many a sermon. For those who want a completeness that includes O Jesu Christ, the Swedish S:T Jacobs Kammerkör is a clear choice; but differences in choral sound, the weight, strength and shaping of Graden’s voices stand against the lighter and less subtle sensitivity that Bernius commands, and this latter may please purists more. I would choose Graden’s breadth and vigour with the warmth of REbaroque if I wanted a recording to play many times over.

PATRIC STANDFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica


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