BACH Cantatas / Quasthoff, Kussmaul

Share

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Kantaten · Cantatas

Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,
BWV 56 · Ich habe genug, BWV 82
Der Friede sei mit dir, BWV 158
Thomas Quasthoff
Members of the RIAS-Kammerchor
Berliner Barock Solisten
Rainer Kussmaul
Int. Release 01 Oct. 2004
1 CD / Download
0289 477 5326 1 CD DDD GH


Track List

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Cantata "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen", BWV 56

Thomas Quasthoff, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul

Members of the RIAS-Kammerchor, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul

Der Friede sei mit dir: Cantata, BWV 158

Thomas Quasthoff, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul

Thomas Quasthoff, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul, Members of the RIAS-Kammerchor

Thomas Quasthoff, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul

Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul, Members of the RIAS-Kammerchor

Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82

Thomas Quasthoff, Berliner Barock Solisten, Rainer Kussmaul

Total Playing Time 49:43

On this generous offering, Thomas Quasthoff presents his many admirers with a cornucopia of pleasurable, intelligent music-making in a judiciously varied recital. Such are his gifts as a singer and as an interpreter that one could just sit back and revel in his glorious voice, his subtle colouring of tone and his virtually infallible technique, but that would be to overlook his astonishing ability to match the varied styles of his chosen composers.

Seine sängerischen und gestalterischen Qualitäten sind so überragend, dass man sich einfach zurücklehnen könnte, um seine herrliche Stimme zu genießen, die subtilen Färbungen, die praktisch unfehlbare Technik. Doch damit würde man seiner erstaunlichen Fähigkeit, sich jeweils genau auf den Stil der so unterschiedlichen Komponisten einzustellen, nicht gerecht.

Ses dons de chanteur et d'interprète sont tels qu'on pourrait se contenter de savourer sa voix somptueuse, ses timbres subtiles et sa technique pratiquement infaillible, mais on risquerait d'oublier son étonnante capacité à s'adapter aux styles variés des compositeurs qu'il a choisis.

The intimacy of Quasthoff's singing probes further, bringing weary eyes to the verge of tears.

Thomas Quasthoff proves a wonderfully eloquent baritone soloist in all three of these cantatas, accompanied by orchestra . . . but it is Quasthoff's singing and his response to every particle of the text that grips the attention so fiercely . . . This is modern Bach interpretation at its most intelligent and committed.

Quasthoff sings ably . . . He manages to invest Bach's spare vocal lines with dignity and also nimbly negotiates the rapid passagework.

Quasthoff shows how tastes have latterly shifted back, placing a sense of period style at the service of Bach's profound response to texts . . . Five stars.

Thomas Quasthoff¿s exemplar is clear. His lovely nut-brown sound, his ability to sing with feather-lightness as well as resonant authority, his way with words, his charismatic gaze in concert, make him a Fischer-Dieskau of our day. And it¿s Fischer-Dieskau¿s way with Bach that¿s recalled in these performances . . . one senses a deeply personal, sure response to the music as he conspires with the plodding tread of the bass line and the dark tones of orchestral oboes, aptly colouring the text¿s words, "Gladly I bear the cross". And he reacts intelligently to the jaunty second aria, which looks forward to the release of death, bassoons playing a playfully hopping staccato bass line and Albrecht Meyer¿s oboe obbligato joining in the anticipatory celebration . . . the gentleness he [Quasthoff] brings to the middle aria, "Schlummert ein", is lovely, and the hushed orchestral ending her is beautifully done. As, by all parties, is the final, dancing "Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod", yet another joyful embracing of death.

Quasthoff has a fine voice for Bach, sturdy and rich through his entire range. He brings his skills as a lieder singer to the darker moments of the text, but overall the tone is optimistic . . .

Quasthoff's musical mastery and spiritual attunement are well-suited to this repertoire . . . The high point of the entire disc is the long aria of consolation "Schlummert ein".

Quasthoff¿s rich voice, even and honest throughout, is perfectly suited to Bach, and very moving, especially in ¿Ich habe genug¿.

. . . a sublime disc.

Thomas Quasthoff is a born communicator -- his warm relationship with audiences coupled with his melting bass-baritone voice lends his performances a welcoming, intimate atmosphere. And it's this winning combination that appears on his Deutsche Grammophon CD/SACD hybrid disc of Bach cantatas, released at the beginning of 2005. You can hear the great singer's strong personality in every phrase . . . Quasthoff brings a controlled beauty to these works, concentrating on delivering the meanings of the words as much as the mood of the music. His performances of these mournful works are coloured with great pathos and understanding.

Thomas Quasthoff . . . verfügt zweifellos über eine außergewöhnlich warme, sinnliche und klangmächtige Stimme, er ist gewissermaßen der Bassbariton par excellence mit einer profunden dunklen Tiefe, der eine manchmal fast tenorale Höhe entspricht. Was diesen Sänger aber über andere seines Fachs hinaushebt, ist der grandios entfaltete Farbreichtum seiner Stimme und eine bewunderungswürdig deutliche Artikulation, so dass Text und Klang zur Einheit und zu musikalischer Wahrheit verschmelzen können . . . Hat man das Glück, ihn auf dem Podium zu erleben, dann lässt Quasthoffs leidenschaftliches Espressivo die eigentlich fehlende Körpersprache vergessen, weil er nicht nur schön, ausdrucksstark und empfindsam zu singen versteht, sondern auch so gesten- und gestaltenreich wie kein anderer . . . Auch die Rolle des leidenden Amfortas in Wagners "Parsifal" an der Wiener Staatsoper konnte Quasthoff überlegen und bewegend persönlich gestalten . . . Nun hat er zum dritten Mal den Grammy gewonnen, diesmal mit der Aufnahme von drei Bach-Kantaten gemeinsam mit dem Rias-Kammerchor und den Berliner Barock-Solisten.

Die Freude wird dem nun schon zum dritten Mal ausgezeichneten Baßbariton Thomas Quasthoff sowie dem Chor und dem Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks unter Chefdirigent Mariss Jansons, die jeweils einen Grammy bekamen, niemand nehmen . . .

Endlich wagt sich wieder ein "normaler" Sänger, der kein Barock-Spezialist ist, an Bachs Kantaten heran. Thomas Quasthoff singt diese Werke -- unter anderem die "Kreuzstab-Kantate" -- mit der ihm eigenen Expressivität, als sei's das Selbstverständlichste von der Welt.

. . . in der gleichen Kombination aus Demut und Intelligenz, aus Frömmigkeit und Können, wie sie der berühmteste Thomas-Kantor aus Leipzig in seinen Werken vereinte, ist dem Bariton Thomas Quasthoff gemeinsam mit den Berliner Barocksolisten unter der Leitung von Rainer Kussmaul eine Einspielung von drei Bach-Kantaten für Bass oder Bariton gelungen, die zutiefst bewegt, anrührt und tatsächlich eine "Recreation des Gemüths" bewirkt . . . Quasthoff gelingt es, den Hörer abzuholen und mitzunehmen zu seiner ganz persönlichen Sicht des christlichen Erlösungsgedankens. Die Färbung der Vokale, die Akzente und die Atemführung passen sich behutsam, aber eindeutig interpretierend dem Text und der Musik an.

Thomas Quasthoff ist mit diesem geistlichen Repertoire seit seinem 13. Lebensjahr wohl vertraut, das merkt man. Die Eleganz, mit der er phrasiert, die regelrecht anzügliche, ja frech-frivole Sinnlichkeit, mit der er die Koloraturen in der Kreuzstab-Arie "Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch" auflädt, die stimmliche Zärtlichkeit und Linearität, die er für "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" bereithält -- das verrät jenseits allen Könnens ein Beteiligtsein, ein inneres Leuchten . . .

Thomas Quasthoffs Liebe zum Vokalwerk Johann Sebastian Bachs wurde schon in mehreren Aufnahmen dokumentiert. Immer erreichte er eine großartige spirituelle Dimension. Und das ist diesmal nicht anders in den drei Kantaten, die das Programm der neuesten Quasthoff-CD bilden . . . Quasthoff dringt unheimlich tief in das Werk ein und verinnerlicht es, ohne aber zu transzendieren. Er ist in der Kreuzstab-Kantate einer der zutiefst menschlichen Interpreten, die ich gehört habe. Das gilt aber auch für die beiden anderen Kantaten. Größte Bedeutung misst er dem Texte zu, dessen Expressivität ohne jeden Manierismus in einem musikalischen Fluss gebracht wird, der den Hörer packt und mitnimmt . . . In den Berliner Barocksolisten unter Reiner Kussmaul, der auch die Solovioline spielt, und . . . im RIAS-Kammerchor hat der Sänger kongeniale Partner, die ihm in seinen Interpretationen sehr entgegen kommen.

Wer's hört, wird selig . . . Davon kann man schwerlich genug haben.

Rainer Kussmaul et ses Berliner Barock Solisten apparaissent ainsi comme des partenaires naturels pour son premier disque consacré à Bach (comme tête d¿affiche). Sa prestation vocale est remarquable : la diction est exceptionnelle, le legato et la continuité des registres, admirables, et le timbre, chaleureux . . . Dans « Der Friede sei mit dir » et « Ich habe genug », Quasthoff nous convainc totalement de la douceur de la mort, son timbre profond, proche de la basse, plaçant naturellement sa voix au centre des instruments, comme lovée dans la partie d¿orchestre.

... un bajobarítono que levanta pasiones ...

Su Bach sí que tiene no sólo presencia vocal y graves sino, sobre todo, vida y emoción. ... Quasthoff es uno de los grandes y su Bach tiene tanto interés como el de -en su día- Fischer-Dieskau o Janet Baker.
Musical Performance and Personal Experience

It would be easy to describe or appraise the art of bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff by evoking the title of an exquisite lied by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn: “On Wings of Song". For a number of decades now, Quasthoff has soared on those wings through the musical world in continual search of new discoveries, of new shores. And just as he did most recently with his highly acclaimed CD A Romantic Songbook (together with the outstanding pianist Justus Zeyen), Quasthoff has once again entered seemingly familiar territory and - through the incomparable quality of his interpretation - made it entirely his own. That territory, in short, is J. S. Bach and the three cantatas for baritone or bass.

Three classics of the Baroque repertoire. And in at least two cases, Thomas Quasthoff had already enjoyed an early involvement with them. Something that many music lovers could hardly know is that, as a schoolboy in his native city of Hildesheim, Quasthoff sang in the choir of St. Michael's, one of Germany's most beautiful churches - not only art historians have sung the praises of its ceiling frescoes painted on wood. He was 13 when the choir's director invited him to join. Today when he looks back on that time, Quasthoff's thoughts are invariably drawn to the works of Bach. He grew up with them - he internalized them, so to speak, as part of a singers' collective well before beginning his international career.

The collective idea forms an essential component of the 2003 Grammy winner's newest recording. Accompanying Quasthoff, along with members of the RIAS Kammerchor (Berlin Radio Chamber Choir, under the direction of Daniel Reuss), are the Berlin Barock Solisten (Berlin Baroque Soloists), led by Rainer Kussmaul. The singer has already given a number of concerts with this ensemble - and discovered that the musical ideas of these Berlin Philharmonic players are very closely related to his own. The results of this collaboration based on friendship are superb readings of the Thomaskantor's three popular sacred cantatas, performances which in their blend of transparency and transcendence represent a milestone in the history of these works.

The secret of this successful collaboration - aside from purely human aspects - can most plainly be found in the manner in which Quasthoff and the Berlin Baroque Soloists recreate Bach's musical language for a new audience. The strings play on modern instruments but use Baroque bows, which serves to make the sound homogeneous and plastic but not too thin. And Quasthoff's bass-baritone voice, with its natural vibrato, blends perfectly into this ensemble. A further and enormous attraction of Quasthoff's Bach interpretation stems from the fact that he approaches the works using his full expressive powers. In other words, here is an artist who does more than illustrate the emotional states in Bach's music - he breathes into them something entirely his own. When, to give just one example, the moment he begins the aria “Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" from Cantata BWV 82, Ich habe genug (which he numbers among “the most beautiful things in all of Baroque music"), one can positively feel the religious charge contained in this music - its profound drama, its profound meaning, and, not least, its humanity and universality, which can scarcely be described in words.

Thomas Quasthoff has no intention of revolutionizing the Bach performance tradition with this recording. For that the charismatic singer is far too modest. “I would never go so far as to say: What we've done here is to make the Bach interpretation." And yet Quasthoff readily admits that the heightened emotional factor here in comparison with previous recordings is what distinguishes his view of Bach. “My approach to Bach," he says, “is marked by a highly personal experience of this music. And this personal experience is what I'm trying to convey to the listener."

Without risk of overstatement one can say that with the present recording Thomas Quasthoff has again succeeded in realizing that subtle difference between conventional and individualized interpretation. In this connection, moreover, and referring specifically to the Passion-like character of these cantatas, he has no hesitation in articulating an unusually personal point of view: “When someone has enjoyed a life of fulfilment and is plagued in old age by pain and suffering, then he or she may well look forward hopefully to death. I can identify with that. There have been situations in my life in which I had the feeling: Death would be the better alternative to what you're going through now." Who knows, perhaps it is precisely in the unvarnished, even mercilessly blunt honesty of this attitude to life and music that the secret of Quasthoff's singing lies. His recording of these three sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach certainly provides eloquent support for that notion.

Jürgen Otten

Thomas Quasthoff - Chronology

1959    Born in Hildesheim, Germany

1972    Begins musical studies in Hanover: singing with Prof. Charlotte Lehmann, music theory and history with Prof. Ernst Huber-Contwig

1988    Wins first prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich

1996    Wins Shostakovich Prize in Moscow and Hamada Trust/Scotsman Festival Prize in Edinburgh; begins appointment as professor in the vocal department of Detmold Musikhochschule, Germany

1998    Wins Echo Prize, awarded by the German media; appearances during the 1998/99 concert season include his New York recital debut, Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Sir Colin Davis, Mahler’s Das

Lied von der Erde with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa, Brahms’s German Requiem with the Chicago Symphony and Daniel Barenboim (in Chicago and Berlin), Mozart arias with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle, Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink

1999    Signs exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon; first release: Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn (with Anne Sofie von Otter, and Claudio Abbado conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker), which is awarded a Grammy in 2000; his summer appearances include debuts at the Ravinia, Tanglewood, and Mostly Mozart (Lincoln Center) festivals; highlights of the 1999/2000 concert season include his Carnegie Hall debut in Britten’s War Requiem with the Boston Symphony and Ozawa, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Rattle with both the Wiener Philharmoniker and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Brahms’s Requiem with the London Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, European and US recital tours

2000    Deutsche Grammophon releases include lieder by Brahms and Liszt (with pianist Justus Zeyen), which wins Cannes Classical Award in 2001, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (with Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker)

2001    CD release of Schubert’s Schwanengesang and Brahms’s Four Serious Songs (with Justus Zeyen), winner of Echo Award; at the Berlin Philharmonie performs and records German Romantic arias with Christian Thielemann and the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper; other concert appearances include Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Rattle in Berlin and Mahler’s Wunderhorn with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Abbado at Carnegie Hall, New York

2002    Deutsche Grammophon release of German Romantic arias with Thielemann; his concert appearances this year include Schumann’s Scenes from “Faust” under Abbado (in Berlin and Salzburg) and Bach’s St. John Passion under Rattle, both with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Mahler song cycles with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester of Berlin under Kent Nagano at the Barbican Centre, London, Bach cantatas with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at various venues in the US and with the Berlin Baroque Soloists at the Salzburg Easter Festival, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Munich with the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, Mahler’s Wunderhorn songs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Hollywood Bowl and Edinburgh Festival, Haydn’s Creation with The Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, recital tours of Europe and the US

2003    This year’s appearances include his first opera engagement, in Beethoven’s Fidelio (as Don Fernando) with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle in Berlin and at the Salzburg Easter Festival; concerts include Mahler’s Wunderhorn songs with the Hamburg Philharmonic and Ingo Metzmacher, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Herbert Blomstedt, Haydn’s Seasons with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Rattle, Mahler’s Wayfarer Songs with the Wiener Philharmoniker under Boulez (also recorded by DG); recital tours include Vienna’s Musikverein and Konzerthaus, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Brussels’s Théâtre de la Monnaie, and the Verbier and Edinburgh festivals; CD release of Schubert songs orchestrated by famous composers (with Anne Sofie von Otter, Claudio Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe – Grammy 2004 “Best Vocal Performance”)

2004    This year sees his Vienna State Opera debut (as Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal, under Donald Runnicles); other appearances to include his first Salzburg Festival lieder recital, Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with Seiji Ozawa and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder under Mariss Jansons, both with the Wiener Philharmoniker, Frank Martin’s Jedermann Monologue with Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker, Mendelssohn’s Elijah with The Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with Eschenbach and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mahler’s Wayfarer Songs with Levine at the Verbier Festival, Schubert songs with Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, a benefit concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Jazz Group, and Bach, Handel and Telemann with the Berlin Baroque Soloists, as well as lieder recitals at the Schwarzenberg Schubertiade and Amsterdam Concertgebouw, in Berlin with Daniel Barenboim, in Vienna and Schwetzingen, and a tour with Schubert’s Winterreise including Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, and Brussels; Deutsche Grammophon releases this year include A Romantic Songbook, featuring lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Loewe, Wolf, and Richard Strauss (with Justus Zeyen) and Bach Cantatas with the Berlin Baroque Soloists; in October Thomas Quasthoff will move from Detmold to Berlin to teach at the “Hanns Eisler” Hochschule für Musik

2005    Plans include further Parsifal performances at the Vienna State Opera (under Rattle); Bach arias in Amsterdam with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Soloists; the B minor Mass in Zürich and on tour in Frankfurt, Vienna, and Athens with the Zürich Opera Orchestra under Welser-Möst, who will also conduct performances of Elijah with Quasthoff and the Wiener Philharmoniker; Britten’s War Requiem with the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden and the Wiener Philharmoniker under Ozawa; Haydn’s “Harmoniemesse” and Stravinsky’s Les Noces with Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker; Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with Metzmacher and the Hamburg Philharmonic; Schubert lieder with Levine and the Met Orchestra; Mozart arias with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra at the Vienna Musikverein, Paris Cité de la musique, and London Barbican, and in Cologne, Brussels, and Caen; performances of Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch with soprano Dorothea Röschmann and Justus Zeyen in Germany and at the Concertgebouw; solo recitals in Amsterdam, Vienna, Florence, Milan, Paris, Zürich, and London with accompanists including Daniel Barenboim and András Schiff

Thomas Quasthoff sings three sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach

It is sad but true: in the perception of the public at large, Bach's two hundred or so sacred and secular cantatas play a far less important role than musicologists and, no less impressively, practising musicians have long since rightly ascribed to them. Marginalized by the impact of the great and admittedly exceptional Passions, the B minor Mass, the Art of Fugue and, not least, the Musical Offering, the cantatas lead a somewhat shadowy existence.

Yet who would seriously suggest that, with their striking sonorities and vast range of emotions, they need fear comparison with the Thomaskantor's more generously proportioned compositions? Probably no one, certainly not the distinguished bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, for whom Bach's cantatas have been a part of his life for decades, as crucial an aspect of his artistic identity as Romantic and late Romantic lieder. He has performed the three solo cantatas for bass or baritone all over the world, from Munich and Stuttgart to New York and Los Angeles, his exquisite and authoritative performances ensuring that this wonderful legacy has survived to this day.

It made sense, then, for him to place his incomparable voice and outstanding interpretative powers in the service of the present recording of these works, a recording that follows in the wake of his intense involvement with the music of Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wolf and Strauss.

In order to gain an idea of the enormous expressive range of Thomas Quasthoff's interpretations, we may usefully turn our attention to the past and in particular to the year 1973, when the thirteen-year-old singer, still at secondary school, was invited by the choirmaster of St Michael's Church in his home town of Hildesheim to join his choir. Quasthoff did not hesitate for a moment and soon became one of the pillars of the choir. And, needless to add, he quickly familiarized himself with Bach's sacred works, taking a profound and active interest in the Thomaskantor's unique musical language and in the religious, not to say universal, aspect of his sacred works.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, to find Quasthoff comparing Bach's music to a cathedral: “This music", he says, “has a tremendous grandeur to it, a grandeur that is not just sacred, but spiritual and human too, and that has basically lost none of its significance."
Although the world may have changed and, with it, faith in all its manifold forms and applications and although the context may now be different, it remains a fact that Bach's works, including his cantatas, have survived the centuries, retaining their validity as inviolate works of art that on a philosophical plane can scarcely be grasped in absolute or objective terms. And even though Thomas Quasthoff does not explicitly use the word “humility" to describe his approach to Bach's music, with its peculiar blend of philosophy, humanism and religion, one none the less senses in all his comments on these works his immense admiration for them, an admiration that sets him and his musical thinking apart from the early music experts whose quest for total authenticity detracts from their delight in the sheer sound of the music.

This can be heard in Quasthoff's singing. In his view, the aria “Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" from Cantata 82 (Ich habe genug) is one of the most beautiful of all Baroque arias, his singing of it seeming to open up a window on a profound dimension intrinsic to the words. It is then that what Quasthoff himself calls the “unimaginable" element resonates in every note, every coloratura flourish and every breath. It is, moreover, this sensitivity no less than his detailed interpretation of both words and music which, faithful to the work and by no means unreflective, constitutes the singer's supreme artistry.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find that Thomas Quasthoff's principal concern is to convey the “Christian message" of these cantatas. He speaks of a “very personal experience" of this music and, in order to illustrate this, draws explicit attention to the closing aria from Cantata 82, “Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod". This cantata he finds marginally more consoling than Cantata 56 (Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen). Although both revolve around the idea of redemption, Cantata 82 brings to this eschatological notion a greater sense of joy, even of jubilation, than Cantata 56, which is centred around the aria “Endlich wird mein Joch wieder von mir weichen müssen".

And Quasthoff is convinced that this redemption must be interpreted in an entirely concrete way: “If someone has had a very fulfilling life and suffers a lot of pain in old age, in other words, if their life is reduced to just suffering, it is quite possible for that person to look forward really and truly to death. I can fully sympathize with this, as there have been times in my own life when I have felt that death would in fact be preferable to the life I was then living." This is a very private confession, but Thomas Quasthoff feels an equally powerful need to remind listeners of the life-affirming sensuality of these three cantatas. For him, Bach is one of the most sensual of all composers; and it is very much in the “redemptive" moments of these works that the performer is required to communicate this sensuality.

Sensuality is synonymous here with emotionality. And anyone familiar with Thomas Quasthoff's interpretations will know that it is this genuinely felt sensuality that invariably accompanies the path from the “transmitter" - in this case the singer Thomas Quasthoff - to the “receiver", namely, his audience. Together with his outstanding diction, with which he underscores the meaning of the words, it is this that constitutes one of the most striking aspects of Thomas Quasthoff's artistry.

Jürgen Otten

(Translation: Stewart Spencer)