J.S. Bach: Cantatas for Soprano by Carolyn Sampson

J.S. Bach composed for the voice like he did for a string instrument: highly chromatic, with irregular intervallic leaps, not necessarily taking the human limitations of singing into account. Bach asked a lot of his singers, composing long phrases (requiring good breath control), often in uncomfortably high tessituras (requiring impeccable vocal technique). Therefore, his cantatas are not for all voices. Rather, it takes an exceptional singer to successfully navigate Bach’s extraordinarily challenging – but heavenly – vocal music. Enter English soprano Carolyn Sampson, for whom the music of Bach is bread and butter. Her latest recording for Harmonia Mundi – three cantatas from Bach’s Weimar period – affirms her place as a top Bach interpreter.

Sampson’s radiant voice never betrays a hint of such challenges, and in fact she sings this repertoire as though it was composed with her voice in mind. Mein Herze Schwimmt im Blut is a case in point. Not only does Sampson sing with technical brilliance, but she imbues the music with feeling and meaning. I challenge you not to be moved by Sampson’s heart-rending interpretation of the dark ‘Stumme seufzer, stille Klagen’, or her jubilant and tastefully ornamented ‘Wie freudig ist mein Herz’. A fantastic recording from an accomplished soprano.


Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.