After almost 19 years and a staggering 55 volumes, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan have finally reached the end of their epic Bach Cantata journey. Robin Blaze has been the countertenor soloist on the vast majority of the recordings and a linchpin of the series, with the highlight being Volume 37 which includes the three great cantatas for solo alto: Vergnügte Ruh (BWV170), Gott soll alleim mein Herze haben (BWV 169) and Geist und Seele (BWV 35) – you can click here to listen to that recording.
Speaking about BCJ’s extraordinary project, and his significant contribution, in Early Music Today, Robin says ‘Over the fifteen years I’ve been involved in this project I’ve seen Masaaki transform from being an academic and organist with an extraordinary insight into Bach’s music into a conductor with the ability to translate these ideas into performances. I’ve always been obsessed with Bach’s music, and the chance to spend so much of my working life on this project has been a dream come true. It’s given me an ideal to strive towards, that of potentially realising a small part of Bach’s genius in performance, without imprinting my own identity’.
The excellence of Robin’s artistry has been reflected in consistently glowing reviews – here is a very small selection:
• Volume 14:
“Blaze, singing with delectation and authority, ravishingly circumnavigates the emotional core of Mund und Herze” - Gramophone
• Volume 24:
“Robin Blaze’s countertenor is regularly a joy in Bach and he sings here with an affectionate, soft-grained lyricism.”- Gramophone
• Volume 37 (solo alto cantatas):
“[Robin Blaze] just shines literally throughout this disc… Blaze is an extraordinary interpreter when it comes to sensitivity to text. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a seductive, limpid beauty of tone that has so much emotion behind it.” - BBC Radio 3 CD Review
“Witness more golden Blaze in the last cantata to cap a disc of especially committed and engaged performances…” - Gramophone
• Volume 40:
“The work becomes even more involving with Robin Blaze producing, in his ideal register, a delectable reading of the first aria.” - Gramophone
• Volume 50:
“Robin Blaze brings his usual elegance and instinctive phrasing to the long lines of the opening aria of the same cantata, warming the ends of the sustained notes with some judicious vibrato and offering plenty of projection without any hardening of tone.” - International Record Review
The recently released 55th and final volume in the series continues this trend, with BBC Music Magazine making it ‘Recording of the Month’: “The glow which suffuses oboe, violin, continuo and Robin Blaze’s alto in the first aria in BWV 69 is captivating”. Simon Heighes in International Record Review says: “Blaze’s voice has changed quite dramatically during the course of this series: from piping Anglican purity to the warmer, more worldly sound he produces here”. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood in Gramophone comments “the fastidiously prepared arias also mark the remarkable contributions of two important soloists throughout the years, Robin Blaze and Peter Kooij… and even more in the jazz-swung alto gavotte, ‘Kommt, ihr angefochten’, one of Bach’s most galant vocal creations from his later years and suitably shaded by Blaze.”