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Catherine King and Norwegian Baroque Orchestra - J.S. Bach: Alto Arias - Audio Video Club of Atlanta


04 July 2016
Audio Video Club of Atlanta
Phil Muse

“Alto Arias” features English mezzo-soprano Catherine King in a program of Bach arias for the alto voice, interspersed with tracks from his Orchestral Suite No. 2. This work?s predominantly darker tone in many of its movements proves surprisingly sympathetic with the spiritual messages in selected arias from the Matthew Passion and various cantatas that deal with sin and redemption. The original 2001 recording has been reissued as part of Linn Records? ECHO series, allowing listeners a second chance to hear a first-rate program.

King?s far-ranging voice is set against the background provided by the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra under director Julian Podger, with co-director Ketil Haugsand providing yeoman support on the harpsichord. Significantly, probably because the NBO eschewed any sort of star billing, there are no credits for the oboe heard in several of the arias or the virtuosic flute parts in the orchestral suite, though all are excellent.

King?s voice is ideally suited for the vocal selections, conveying the deeper emotion associated with the lifechanging theological moments – painful awareness of sin, heartfelt contrition, cleansing, and redemption – that Bach seemed to habitually reserve for the range and depth of the alto voice. Handel does much the same in his Messiah, but Bach had a special reason for favoring this voice because his second wife, Anna Magdalena Wilcken, was an accomplished singer in that vocal range.

In our time, Catherine King conveys both the dignity and the conviction to put over such arias as “Buss und Reu” (sorrow and regret) and “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (Have mercy on me, my God), both from the. Matthew Passion, the extended aria “Wo zwei and drei versammlet sind” (Where two and three are gathered in my name, there also am I) from Cantata 112, and the deep eloquence of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) for voice and solo violin from the Mass in B minor. This program impresses with its simplicity, conviction, and well-formed contours.


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J.S. Bach: Alto AriasJ.S. Bach: Alto Arias