Catherine King and Norwegian Baroque Orchestra - J.S. Bach: Alto Arias - HMV Choice
Bach composed some of his most beautiful music for the alto voice, seemingly as a way to express his love for his second wife, Anna Magdalena Wilken, herself blessed with a compelling alto. Performances in this range are usually given by males, which makes this recital by Catherine King all the more extraordinary and exciting.
The arias are taken from Bach's major works: Buss' und reu from and Erbarme dich from the St Matthew Passion, Wo zwei und drei and Zum reinen wasser which appear in the Eastertide cantatas, and the Agnus Dei from the B Minor Mass. Each aria marks the musical summit of the work in question. the purpose of cherry picking the best of Bach in this way was evidently to create a song cycle that serves to highlight specific aspects of the composer's creative life and to express a central aspect of the Christian experience - namely of sublimation of self to a higher spirit.
Catherine's subtle elaboration breathes tenderness, nobility and dignity into this exquisite music, inspiring each aria with the elusive, spiritually uplifting quality of prayer that comes right from the heart.