Throughout most of his professional life, Johann Sebastian Bach composed cantatas for use at church services: it is thought that he probably wrote at least 300 such works. Some 200 of these are still extant, of which the earliest hail from Bach's time as organist in Arnstadt (1703-07) and the last were composed only a year or two before his death in 1750. In 1995, when Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan began the monumental journey of recording the cantatas, they decided to follow in Bach's footsteps. Consequently the first volume of their series - Disc 1 in the present boxed set - featured three of Bach's very first cantatas (BWV 4, 150 and 196) while the series (and the set) ends with the last one: Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele BWV 69. Recorded and released over a period of 19 years, the BCJ cantata cycle has met with international acclaim, Masaaki Suzuki and his team earning the respect of reviewers and experts through the excellence of their performances, but also through their approach to the music, described by one reviewer as 'seeking devotional depth rather than brilliance for its own sake.'
The remarkable consistency displayed throughout this long-term project is largely due to Masaaki Suzuki, who, when he introduced the series in 1995, expressed his conviction that Bach's music contains 'a message which can touch the human heart, regardless of nationality or cultural tradition'. Many of his musicians - soloists, choristers and instrumentalists - have remained remarkably loyal to the undertaking from the very beginning, as has the Shoin Women's University in Kobe, by providing its chapel as the recording venue throughout the entire series.