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Johann Ludwig Bach was born into a branch of the Bach family in 1677. A hard-working church musician, he became Meiningen Hofkapell-meister in 1711. Eighteen of his cantatas were performed by his more illustrious relative J.S. Bach. His music is well-crafted and typical of its period; but lacking that indefinable touch of genius, it makes for a seemingly interminable three-and-half hours’ listening. Duke Ernst Ludwig von Sachsen-Meiningen wrote the text for his own funeral which J.L. Bach set for four SATB soloists, 2 four-part choirs, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo in 1724, when the text was expanded into a large three-part libretto. The format follows the same pattern throughout, with the soloists taking the leading roles singing the recitatives and arias. The instrumental writing dovetails well into the vocal lines. It’s very pleasant and at times uplifting, but rather repetitious.

J.L.’s Thuringian motets are not particularly inspired and were shortly replaced by the cantatas. The three here are fine examples of his work. Set for choir, four soloists and instrumentalists, they show some of his best writing. The intriguing Missa brevis Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’ is a find. Here the composer sets only the Kyrie and sections of the Gloria, which are sung alongside the German Reformation hymn ‘To God alone on high be praise.’ This is performed as a cantus firmus, which makes for a richer texture against the contrapuntal lines and is delightful. Johann Ludwig Bach’s music demands great technical skill and musicianship. Rheinische Kantorei meets every demand made of it with lovely, clear voices, equally matched by the playing of Das Kleine Konzert in the style of the period. It’s interesting to dip into.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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