Kathleen Ferrier - In Celebration of Bach. © 2019 SOMM Recordings

CD Spotlight

An Invaluable Addition

Kathleen Ferrier sings the Bach Magnificat,
impressing GERALD FENECH

'A masterstroke by SOMM and an invaluable addition to the Ferrier discography that will grace any music collection.'


8 October 1953 was indeed a sad day not only for British music lovers, but for all people who love beauty and humility. When the announcement came through of Kathleen Ferrier's death aged only forty-one, a sense of disbelief fell all over the country. Ever since her first broadcast as a contralto on 23 February 1939 she had regaled the British public with some of the best and most memorable concerts, both during the War and in the aftermath of that great human tragedy. She was much loved and adulated, and her tender and humble disposition made her the darling of audiences both in Britain and abroad. Thankfully, throughout her short career she made a substantial number of recordings both live and in the studio, and this is what this CD is all about.

Listen — J S Bach: Ah, tarry yet, my dearest Saviour (Ascension Oratorio)
(track 16, 1:20-2:19) © 2019 SOMM Recordings :

In June 1950 the singer travelled to Vienna for the first time to participate in three major performances of works by J S Bach. Recordings of the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor taken from Austrian Radio broadcasts and released on different labels have been available for thirty years, but during all this time there has been no sign of the Magnificat. By some miracle, sixty-eight years after the original performance, a recording was finally discovered, and the version on this release is precisely that recording. A rarity in Ferrier's repertoire - she had only sung it once before and was never to again - the Magnificat was a work much loved by the singer who felt a great affinity with the piece. Indeed this is what she had to say of the work, 'Oh! The Magnificat - I am in my element in this sort of music.'

Listen — J S Bach: Esurientes implevit bonis (Magnificat)
(track 9, 0:32-1:32) © 2019 SOMM Recordings :

The immediacy and clarity of sound belies its age, and its discovery allows us to hear this famous contralto perform music that she had never otherwise recorded. The innovative recordings of the two Bach Cantatas were made and released by Decca in 1950. Remastered by SOMM Recordings from pristine pressings, these two performances betray the intense affection Ferrier had for Bach's music, although the contralto's contribution to No 67 is modest.

Listen — J S Bach: And still, O Lord (Cantata No 67)
(track 28, 0:00-0:19) © 2019 SOMM Recordings :

Both works are sung in an English translation. The final item on this programme is 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' from Cantata No 147, which, incidentally, is also sung in a familiar English translation by Robert Bridges.

Listen — J S Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Cantata No 147)
(track 31, 2:44-3:31) © 2019 SOMM Recordings :

A charming and edifying conclusion to a CD devoted to the celebration of both J S Bach and the glorious Kathleen Ferrier, one of his supreme interpreters during the twentieth century. A masterstroke by SOMM and an invaluable addition to the Ferrier discography that will grace any music collection.

Copyright © 7 May 2019 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



 << Home              Next review >>