Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Motets
Ottawa Bach Choir, conducted by Lisette Canton; Jonathan Oldengarm, organ; Matthew Larkin, harpsichord; Lucas Harris, theorbo; Jean-Christophe Lizotte, cello; Reuven Rothman, double bass
Atma Classique, 2023

Under the leadership of Lisette Canton, the Ottawa Bach Choir and five-piece continuo deliver a magnificent performance of Bach’s Six Motets. The Ottawa Bach Choir sings with a wide range of emotion and characters, mirroring the varying emotional states present in J.S. Bach motets. With agile and virtuosic singing, they uncover the beauty, unerring faith, and torment contained in these masterpieces. Canton’s highly nuanced conducting and command of the score is evident in the choir’s precise shifts from one humour to the next, contrapuntal clarity, and tight ensemble work. Expressively, the vocal ensemble is spotless: angelic at times, jovial, melancholy, remorseful, or tormented at other times. An all-around inspired vocal performance from both choir and soloists coupled with expert accompaniment. The recording quality is limpid, clean, and well-balanced. A thoroughly engaging and inspiring reference recording in performance practice style.

Opening with Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225the light, airy, agile voices of the choir produce a limpid sound. Virtuosic melismas in the choir contribute to an engaging, driven performance: music that dances, lives, breathes, lilts. The second movement is light and calm, while the third is lively and metrically propelled forward. Energetic impulses from the choir, supported by the continuo, are expertly synchronized.

In Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227, the melancholy and expressive score is rendered with precise diction, energy, and engagement, giving life to the motet. The Ottawa Bach Choir’s angelic voices are expertly recorded by the engineers, providing an exemplary rendition of Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226, Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229, and Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230which ends with a brilliant fugue.