Johann Sebastian Bach: Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis - Konzerte und Sinfonien für Oboe

Heinz Holliger, Erich Höbarth, Camerata Bern

A recording to delight all admirers of Bach and the baroque oboe and a wonderful account of Heinz Holliger’s interpretive genius as a player: for many, he is the world’s greatest oboist. Factor in the long-established relationship between the Camerata Bern and Holliger which permits a real group understanding, Erich Hobarth’s exemplary violin, and superb ECM sound and we have here a special event. Holliger has recorded prolifically for the New Series, but this is his first disc for the label since the 1997 “Zelenka” album to address core classical repertoire, and these very popular pieces will find a broad public response.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 2010, Radio Studio, Zürich

Original Release Date


  • Kantate "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" BWV 21
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 1Sinfonia03:04
  • Konzert in c-Moll für Violine, Oboe, Streicher und
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 2Allegro04:51
  • Konzert in c-Moll für Violine, Oboe, Streicher und Basso continuo BWV 1060
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 3Adagio04:49
  • Konzert in c-Moll für Violine, Oboe, Streicher und
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 4Allegro03:42
  • Oster-Oratorium "Kommt, eilet und laufet" BWV 249
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 5Sinfonia (Adagio)03:23
  • Konzert in A-Dur für Oboe d'amore, Streicher und Basso continuo BWV 1055
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 6[ohne Satzangabe]04:23
  • 7Larghetto04:56
  • 8Allegro04:38
  • Konzert in d-moll für Oboe, Streicher und Basso continuo
    (Alessandro Marcello)
  • 9Andante e spiccato03:06
  • 10Adagio03:51
  • 11Presto03:41
  • Kantate "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" BWV 12
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 12Sinfonia02:47
  • Konzert d-Moll für Oboe, Streicher und Basso continuo BWV 1059
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 13Allegro05:46
  • 14Adagio02:41
  • 15Presto03:29
Die Oboe, dieses sanfteste unter den Blasinstrumenten, das der menschlichen Stimme am nächsten kommt, fügt sich besonders innig dem Streicherklang und tritt zugleich mit diesem in einen Dialog, der den Konzerten viel stärker als bei einer reinen Streicherbesetzung den Charakter eines Wechselspiels verleiht. Und nur wenige Solisten spielen die Oboe so meisterhaft, so ausdrucksvoll wie Heinz Holliger.
Thomas Rothschild, Titel Magazin
Für Holliger zählen die vier Oboensinfonien Bachs zu den Höhepunkten der gesamten Oboenliteratur: Seine Interpretation lässt daran keinen Zweifel.
Franz Cavigelli, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Sans indtruments d’époque ni phrasés “baroques”, mais avec une verve, une douceur de timbre et une virtuosité inimitables. A 72 ans, Holliger reste plus expressif que jamais, capable de faire chanter le hautbois comme une voix humaine. Dirigée du violon par Erich Höbarthj, la Camerata Bern accompagne le soliste avec un son riche qui vise la plénitude avant tout. Difficile d’imaginer musique instrumentale plus poignante. Un must.
L.S., Tribune de Genève
Ein Preziosum für Barock-Liebhaber – Wunderbar, wie sich Holligers Oboe und die von Erich Höbarth gespielte Solo-Violine in der Sinfonia zur Kantate „Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis“ umgarnen; ein spezieller Genuss, die seltener als Soloinstrument eingesetzte etwas tiefer (und damit auch voller) klingende Oboe d’amore im A-Dur-Konzert zu hören; bewegend wie Holliger die Solostimme im Adagio des d-Moll-Konzerts gestaltet, Die große Transparenz des Ensembleklangs geht in dieser Produktion nirgends zu Lasten seiner barocken Sinnlichkeit. Und am Ende steht man einmal mehr vor einem alten Bach-Paradoxon: Wie selbst (oder gerade auch) Kompositionen, die Moll-schwer existentiellen Kummer und Sorgen thematisieren, durch ihre strahlende Schönheit dann doch wieder zu einem aus tiefster Seele jubilierenden Preis der Schöpfung geraten.
Christian Stollberg, Sono Magazin
Heinz Holliger soars through Bach’s music for oboe in his first ECM recital of core classical repertoire since his 1997 account of Zelenka’s Trio Sonatas. Recorded at Radio Studio Zürich in December 2010, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis”, draws upon Holliger’s long artistic relationship with Camerata Bern and leader Eric Höbarth, the production rendering every detail in the music, the elegance of Holliger’s phrasing, the tactile sound of baroque bows on gut strings, crystal clear. Holliger dedicates this very special recording to the memory of his brother, theatre director Erich Holliger, and Gabriel Bürgin, pianist, friend and colleague.

Johann Sebastian Bach relied on the oboe to voice some of the most exquisite instrumental passages in his cantatas and orchestral works, these solo parts adding up to what Heinz Holliger terms a "miraculous wealth" of music for the oboe. Holliger, one of the world's consummate oboists for five decades now, as well as a prize-winning composer and conductor –presents a collection of this music drawn from the sinfonia introductions to several sacred cantatas, the sinfonia from the Easter Oratorio and versions of three Bach concertos made for oboe, strings and continuo. These include the sublime Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, with the solo violin part played by Erich Höbarth, who also directs the Camerata Bern throughout the album. Also included is Alessandro Marcello's Oboe Concerto in D minor, a piece Bach appreciated enough to rework for solo harpsichord.

“Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” translates as "I had much affliction.” The title is drawn from Bach's cantata BWV 21, the largest of his sacred cantatas and a journey from the dark of grief to the light of hope, written for the death of a young prince, one of Bach's favourite pupils. Bach also performed the cantata later after the sudden death of his first wife. This cantata's sinfonia is a wondrous creation full of sighing chromatic melody for the solo oboe, garlanded by violins. Holliger – who has written his own liner notes for the album, detailing the often complicated provenance of the various pieces – describes Bach's oboe sinfonias as "among the towering masterpieces of the entire repertoire for the instrument."

Another of these masterpieces for oboe is the sinfonia to the cantata “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” ("Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing"), BWV 12. Holliger characterizes this deeply affecting sinfonia as "a winding, broadly arched dirge," its long lines marked by bold harmonies and a heart-stopping fermata. Also included is the adagio introduction to Part II of the Easter Oratorio, a B minor sinfonia in which the richly ornamented melody of the oboe "floats almost weightlessly" above an ostinato sarabande played by the strings. The album's other oboe sinfonia – a consoling, aria-like adagio taken from the cantata “Ich steh' mit einem Fuss im Grab”e ("I stand with one foot in the grave") – serves as the slow movement for Holliger's version of the Oboe Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059. Many listeners will recognise this music from the slow movement to Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in F minor; the composer – an enthusiastic arranger of his music and that of others – borrowed it from its original place in the cantata.

None of Bach's original concertos for oboe survived what Holliger calls, quoting Hegel, the "fury of disappearance." Yet all of the composer's harpsichord concertos and many of his cantata movements and organ trio sonatas originated in his early concertos and chamber music for wind instruments or violin. Scholars have since reconstructed, as Holliger puts it, "the putative shape of this lost repertoire," making versions of the music that satisfy contemporary standards of authenticity. The best known of all Bach's "recovered" concertos is the Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060. (It is often played in D minor, but Holliger finds C minor more persuasively idiomatic.) The oboist has often pointed out the ways in which Bach's music pushes the physical possibilities of a performer to the limit, particularly in terms of breathing for wind players. Yet in this work of life-affirming beauty, Holliger matches violinist Erich Höbarth in dialogue that is glorious, poignant and thrilling by turns.

The album's other Bach concerto is BWV 1055, the A Major Concerto for Oboe d'amore, the instrument Holliger calls the oboe's "deeper, gentler companion." This recording is his third of the work, after a first in 1965 and the second in 1982. Gramophone magazine lauded Holliger's playing of the Larghetto in BWV 1055 on his '80s Philips recording as "deeply searching," but this latest performance for ECM could scarcely be more poetically phrased, with the subtlest degrees of light and shade. The famous Marcello concerto is an ever-popular Italian Baroque gem and another piece that Holliger has recorded multiple times; there are reasons for this, including a central Adagio that sees the oboe sing a long-breathed aria of almost heartbreaking poise over the dramatic pulse of the strings.

In Höbarth and the players of Switzerland's Camerata Bern, Holliger has an ideally sympathetic team; the group's balance of a rich sound with fluent tempi and general dynamism reflects contemporary views of music the oboist has approached repeatedly over decades of changing tastes. In his liner essay, Holliger refers to the inspiration in Bach's oboe writing as "virtually inexhaustible." Something similar could be said about this veteran oboist's musicianship and his ability to commune with the transcendent and timeless in art.