Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Mass in B minor BWV 232
Conducted by Jeffrey Thomas with American Bach Soloists


J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor BWV 232


Mass in B minor BWV 232

Jeffrey Thomas

American Bach Soloists

Sopranos: Julianne Baird, Judith Nelson, Nancy Zylstra; Mezzo-sopranos: Jennifer Lane, Zoila Muñoz; Counter-tenor: Steven Rickards; Tenor: Patrick Romano; Basses: William Sharp, James Weaver

Koch International 3-7194-2 Y6x2
American Bach Soloists

Jun 15-16, 1992

2-CD / TT: 108:04

Recorded at St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA, USA.
Buy this album at:
Koch 2-CD (1993): | |
ABS CD-1 (2007):
ABS CD-2 (2007):

Mass BWV 232 by J. Thomas & ABS

Riccardo Nughes wrote (January 8, 2003):
I'd like to know any comments about the recording of Bach's Mass BWV 232 by Jeffrey Thomas & American Bach Soloists.

Matthew Westphal wrote (January 9, 2003):
I think it's good but not great. Some of the conducting is more dramatic than you often find from period-instrument groups (e.g., the opening of the Crucifixus); soloists Julianne Baird and Jennifer Lane are particularly good; the chorus isn't bad at all, but they're not as well blended or clean in execution as some of their competitors (e.g., Herreweghe's Collegium Vocale, which sets an extremely high standard).

The ABS performances (at the Berkeley Festival) that preceded the recording were reportedly extraordinary -- they got whooping, cheering, stomping ovations from the audience. So I was surprised that the recording wasn't more exciting. I've heard that the musicians, tired after the weekend of concerts, were not at their best for the recording sessions.

Hope this helps,


Chorus of Soloists - the Real Thing

Janos Gereben wrote (April 29, 2003):
When it comes to small, intimate performances of the biggest of big oratorios, one local organization looms large: the American Bach Soloists. Over the past weekend, on three consecutive days, Jeffrey Thomas' ABS took on the greatest of the great, Bach's B minor Mass. The result, as heard Sunday, in the Calvary Presbyterian Church, was power and excellence where much larger ensembles are merely loud and competent.

Because the Mass was not performed during Bach's lifetime, Thomas has always argued, "we are set free from... producing a recreation of any one performance." That is to say, there is no authentic version to follow. Thomas figures, based on performance records of other Bach works, that his configuration is about "right."

The fact is that most contemporary performances, while not necessarily employing a large orchestra, usually have a larger chorus. Thomas used five soloists, a chorus of 25, a 25-piece orchestra and organ. This made more "sense" than ABS performances of cantatas in past years, with a chorus of eight and four soloists participating in the choruses, but I, for one, feel nostalgic about that special sound and spirit that perhaps resulted more from economy than considerations of musicology. A few years ago, when ABS last performed the B minor Mass, there was a chorus of about 20 and four soloists, and I still remember the soloists singing along in some of the choral numbers. Unwise for individual singers as that might have been, there was something heartwarming and memorable about it for the audience.

On Sunday, the sound was "right," even without that communal touch. The performance was dedicated and rich, although at times it bogged down in swirling eddies, instead of the majestic forward flow this mightiest river of music requires. And yet, time and again, one sub-section after another, the performance reached surging, memorable high points. At the risk of stretching the water analogy too far, those climaxes especially the quiet ones - provided the rare gift of the coveted "oceanic feeling" that's the essence of Bach when all goes well.

At times, the development of the music within a sub-section presented an actual contrast. "Credo in unum Deum," for example, sounded thin and listless at first, gradually building to great impact. The Sanctus, all of which needs to be gently, joyously "swinging," was dragging at first, found the right rhythm and sound, to dissolve flawlessly at the end into oceanic peace.

There was much credit to go around among the soloists and orchestra, but it was the chorus that served as the backbone, the leading force of the performance. Although ABS is, in fact, an organization of solo artists, I don't think I ever heard "Qui tollis peccata mundi" so completely blended, one voice from the many. Whether Thomas made that happen or he was caught up in the sound of the chorus, the section was heavenly, and, for a change, all of one piece, not self-correcting in time.

There was a bit of barking at the beginning of "Gloria in excelsis Deo," and the tempo being rushed, but the whole of the Symbolum Nicenum, a mini-Passion in the heart of the Mass, fast developed into solid music-making, once again the chorus singing brilliantly, with a pianissimo that portrayed well the speechless grief of the "Crucifixus."

Thomas kept even pauses between the sections, and here, he made a mistake. Instead of allowing the "Resurrexit" to explode after a beat of silence, the conductor waited too long and failed to connect the ecstatic joy, Bach at his most operatic-dramatic, to the deep sorrow preceding, prompting it.

The chorus, bless 'em, went on to rock in "Confiteor" and, even more so, in "Et expecto." And yet, it was only after the Symbolum Nicenum that Thomas shuffled the chorus, placing the 10 men in the middle, surrounded by the 15 sopranos and altos, the sound improving significantly. There was both a bigger sound and more energy in "Osanna in excelsis" and "Dona nobis pacem" from the now-"men-centered" chorus.

Violins (Elizabeth Blumenstock, first chair) were at their usual best, John Thiessen's trumpet better than ever, in the good company of William Williams and Stephen Escher. Sandra Miller's flute obbligatos were spectacular, there were some problems with the horn, and Stephen Hammer's oboe d'amore soared in "Qui sedes" with a romantic abandon that might have been more appropriate a couple of centuries after Bach.

Soprano Rosemarie van der Hooft made a welcome return to ABS. Her "Laudamus" (with Blumenstock's obbligato) was suffused with the joy of the text. Oakland soprano Mary Ellen Callahan still seems to lack muscle under the voice in the middle range, although she performed well in a duet with David Vanderwal, a very tall tenor with a voice that's not as large as the man. His "Benedictus" (with Miller's affecting accompaniment) revealed "two voices" in one throat, intriguing, not yet well integrated.

Alto Jennifer Lane's big, broad voice melted into the orchestra and Hammer's obbligato, but her "Agnus Dei" sourather mechanical, contrasting with the deep feeling expressed by the chorus in the following "Dona nobis pacem." Bass Aaron Engebreth's arias revealed a fine voice, stronger in the baritone range, and an impressive sense of sincere, powerful musicality.

But, again, the radiant heart of the ABS B minor Mass is the chorus. So much so that - disregarding standard journalistic practice - each and every one them should be named. That's the least they deserve not only for excellence, but also for meeting the incredibly grueling task of four straight days of rehearsals, followed by four consecutive performances of this most demanding of choral works. (The fourth performance was Monday night in Davis' Mondavi Center.)

They are: first sopranos Michelle Clair, Christine Earl, Andrea Fullington, Susan Judy, Cheryl Sumsion; second sopranos Jennifer Brody, Elisabeth Engan, Alexandra Ivanoff, Amelia Triest, Allison Zelles Lloyd; altos Suzanne Elder Wallace, Elisabeth Eliassen, Paul Flight, Linda Liebschutz, Katherine E. McKee, Jason Snyder.

Tenors Edward Betts, Daniel Hutchings, Andrew Morgan, Mark Mueller, John Rouse; basses Hugh Davies, Thomas Hart, Raymond Martinez, Chad Runyon, David Varnum. Bravi to all!


Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18
Systematic Discussions: Part 1: Kyrie | Part 2: Gloria | Part 3: Credo | Part 4: Sanctus | Part 5: Agnus Dei | Part 6: Early Recordings | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings: BWV 232 - C. Abbado | BWV 232 - Anonymous | BWV 232 - G.C. Biller | BWV 232 - F. Brüggen | BWV 232 - J. Butt | BWV 232 - S. Celibidache | BWV 232 - M. Corboz | BWV 232 - A. Eby | BWV 232 - G. Enescu | BWV 232 - E. Ericson | BWV 232 - D. Fasolis | BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 232 - C.M. Giulini | BWV 232 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 232 - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 232 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 232 - R. Hickox | BWV 232 - R. Jacobs | BWV 232 - E. Jochum | BWV 232 - Ifor Jones | BWV 232 - K. Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | BWV 232 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 232 - R. King | BWV 232 - O. Klemperer | BWV 232 - S. Kuijken | BWV 232 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 232 - P. McCreesh | BWV 232 - M. Minkowski | BWV 232 - H. Müller-Bruhl | BWV 232 - S. Ozawa | BWV 232 - M. Pearlman | BWV 232 - K. Richter | BWV 232 - J. Rifkin | BWV 232 - H. Rilling | BWV 232 - H. Scherchen | BWV 232 - P. Schreier | BWV 232 - R. Shaw | BWV 232 - G. Solti | BWV 232 - M. Suzuki | BWV 232 - J. Thomas & ABS | BWV 232 - K. Thomas | BWV 232 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 [T. Noel Towe] | Bachs B minor Mass on Period Instruments [D. Satz] | Like Father, Like Son [B. Pehrson]

Jeffrey Thomas: Short Biography | American Bach Soloists | Recordings of Vocal Works | General Discussions | American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - J. Thomas & ABS

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127


Back to the Top

Last update: Monday, June 05, 2017 08:52