The longtime lead vocalist for Krautrock pioneers Can, Kenji "Damo" Suzuki was born in Japan on January 16, 1950. An expatriate street poet inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road, he spent the better part of the late 1960s wandering through Europe, and while busking outside a cafe in Munich in May of 1970 was discovered by Can members Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit; asked to replace the group's former frontman Malcolm Mooney, Suzuki joined them onstage that very night, making his recorded debut later that same year on the LP Soundtracks. With Suzuki in the lineup, Can produced its most enduring and innovative work, including classic LPs like 1971's Tago Mago, 1972's Ege Bamayasi and 1973's Future Days; however, upon completing work on the latter, he left the band to become a Jehovah's Witness. Absent from music for a decade, in 1983 Suzuki began showing up unannounced to perform at shows by the band Dunkelziffer, eventually joining the group full-time and recording a pair of LPs; in 1998, he founded the Damo's Network label, issuing a series of live recordings including V.E.R.N.I.S.S.A.G.E., Seattle and the seven-CD box set P.R.O.M.I.S.E..
Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki have sung of the wonders of Christmas a number of times, in Bach’s cantatas and Christmas Oratorio as well as in Handel’s Messiah. Here, instead, we hear the choir a cappella in a selection of classic Christmas carols. Masato Suzuki, son of the ensemble’s founder and director, has selected some of the best-loved songs of Christmas, such as Adeste fideles and Silent Night, as well as less familiar hymns, arranging them especially for these singers. A consummate organist, he also performs a number of Louis-Claude Daquin’s noëls variés – keyboard variations on Christmas songs which became a highly popular genre in 18th-century France.
As the mysterious opening bars of the Kyrie gradually emerge into the light, we know that this recording of Mozart’s glorious Great Mass in C minor is a special one: the tempi perfect, the unfolding drama of the choral writing so carefully judged, and, above it all, the crystalline beauty of soloist Carolyn Sampson’s soprano, floating like a ministering angel. Masaaki Suzuki’s meticulous attention to detail, so rewarding in his remarkable Bach recordings, shines throughout this disc, the playing alert, the choir responsive, the soloists thrilling. And there is the bonus of an exhilarating Exsultate, Jubilate with Sampson on top form.