2023 / The Teshin Company
Review by Kathy Parsons
I should probably say upfront that I don't review a lot of classical albums, let alone vocals, but JS Bach has always been one of my favorite classical composers and it's fun to try something different, so here we go!
Bach Woman is a collection of eight oratorios by JS Bach that are sung in the original German by mezzo-soprano Diana Tash along with a string quartet and/or various other instruments - not the chamber orchestra one would normally hear with this music. Ms Tash, and singer/producer A. J. Teshin (The Teshin Company) purposely selected minimal instrumentation and permitted only duos, trios and quartets rather than the orchestra. All accompaniment has been stripped down and streamlined into eight highly stylized recordings of J.S. Bach arias that are very baroque - and very modern! The Lyris Quartet, oboist Lot Demeyer and violinist Joel Pargman emerge as players who are beautifully adept and expressive in the face of Teshin’s minimalism, brisk tempos and close microphones.
Several of the tracks include The Lyris Quartet (Alyssa Park, Shalini Vijayan, Luke Maurer and Timothy Loo), while others feature (in various combinations) Joel Pargman (violin), Marylin Winkle (cello), Lot Demeyer (oboe), Suzanna Giordano Gignac (viola), Jackie Highway (violin), Jaquain Sloane (bassoon) and/or The Teshin Company.
Bach Woman begins with "Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: IV. Aria 'Ach, bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben'," performed with voice, violin and cello. It begins with a cello and violin intro that sets the tone of the piece, and then keeps the strings to a minimum to allow Diana's richly expressive voice to really shine. "Ich habe genug, BWV 82: V. Aria 'Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod'" picks up the tempo considerably, maintaining a beautiful interplay between voice, oboe, violin, viola and cello. "Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, Pt. 1: X. Aria 'Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris'” features Diana, oboe and The Lyris Quartet. Stately yet passionate, the oboe is almost as important as the voice on this one.
"Matthäuspassion, BWV 244, Pt. II: 39. Aria 'Erbarme dich'” is my favorite track on the album. This time, it is just Diana's voice, violin and cello, but what a beautiful trio! Much of the cello part is played pizzicato (plucked strings rather than bowed), making the contrast between voice, bowed strings and plucked strings even more distinctive. "Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243: II. Aria 'Et Exultavit Spiritus Meus'" is a lively and joyful expression with Diana and The Lyris Quartet. Also featuring voice and The Lyris Quartet, "Weihnachtsoratorium, BWV 248, Pt II. Aria 'Schlafe, mein Liebster'" presents a beautiful tapestry in different musical colors and textures, each vital and unique to the piece. It seems that the bassoon rarely has the opportunity to step into the spotlight, but on "Weihnachtsoratorium, BWV 248, Pt. 1: IV. Aria 'Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben',” the bassoon and violin do a lively dance around Diana's lyrical voice - also a favorite. The album comes to a close with "Ich habe genug, BWV 82: I. Aria 'Ich habe genug',” this time for voice, oboe, violin, viola and cello - a gorgeous ending to a very stirring and inspiring album!
Bach Woman is available digitally from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. It is well-worth a listen!
August 18, 2023