Mass in B minor BWV 232
General Discussions – Part 3
Continue from Part 2
Bach’s B minor Mass on Period Instruments
Donald Satz wrote (February 28, 2000):
Having just acquired the new Boston Baroque recording on Telarc of Bach's Mass in b, I decided to compare it to the other period instrument versions I have: Gardiner on Archiv, the first Herreweghe on Virgin, Leonhardt on DHM, Hickox on Chaconne, Parrott on EMI, Rifkin on Nonesuch, Brüggen on Philips, and King on Hyperion. Although I know I also have Herreweghe's 2nd version on HM, I can't find it, so the nine above are it. I'll review each version essentially by section of the work and start with the Kyrie.
The Mass in b is a monumental work expressing, to me, the power, invincibility and inevitability of the forces which create and maintain all that is real, imagined, and possible. Thinking that way, I see the Kyrie eleison of the Kyrie as providing a microcosm of of the work; power, inevitability, and invincibility hang heavily in the air. A superb performance of the Kyrie eleison must highlight these features, and a strong bass line is essential to capture the mood. Also, the chorus need be strong and stretch for the heavens at times. Each of the 9 versions is strong on the first track, and three are special. Gardiner's instruments are the most pungent, giving the sensation of of each one going off on its own trail yet blending perfectly together. Rifkin is superb in providing the most subtlety and also the inevitability of the life force. King's is the best balanced account, and easily has the best sound; there's a crispness that's irresistable.
The second part of the Kyrie, the Christe eleison, is a relatively peaceful request for mercy written as a duet, and it's a beautiful piece. Again, all the recordings do well. Herreweghe's tempo drags a little, and one shouldn't be slow when asking for mercy. Rifkin is the fastest and gives the proceedings a somewhat glib atmosphere. King uses boy sopranos; I want to be flexible, but the boys just don't sound as good as the adults and I question innocent youth needing to ask for any mercy. Four of the versions stand out for a combination of fine tempo/flow, excellent/expressive voices well blended, and the sense that the two singers encompass and highlight the entire sound stage: Parrott, Leonhardt, Gardiner, and Pearlman (Gardiner just a little below). Special soloist mention goes to Nicole Heaston on Pearlman's recording; her gorgeous voice just soars in the sky.
The last part of the Kyrie, another Kyrie eleison, takes us back to the requirements of the first track. All the versions are at least good with King, Gardiner, and Leonhardt best displaying the drama of the piece. Leonhardt's account is quite slow, but he provides great drama and anticipation.
So far, Gardiner is doing best with King and Leonhardt close seconds. Herreweghe, Brüggen, and Hickox bring up the rear. In my next posting, I'll cover the Gloria.
Deryk Barker wrote (February 28, 2000):
< Donald Satz wrote: So far, Gardiner is doing best with King and Leonhardt close seconds. Herreweghe, Brüggen, and Hickox bring up the rear. In my next posting, I'll cover the Gloria. >
Oh dear, are things really that bad? I thought JEG's one of the most superficial B minors I've ever heard. I almost traded it back, which is something I almost never do.
Donald Satz wrote (February 29, 2000):
The second section of the Mass in b, the Gloria, is, to me, the heart of the work. It begins with the Gloria in excelsis which contains an instrumental introduction followed by choral passages. This is joyous, fast, and powerful music of strong impact. Four of the versions have a significant deficiency: Rifkin's has some squirrely vocal passages, Pearlman's appears hurried, Parrott's has an instrumental introduction where the orchestra doesn't quite seem in sync, and King's has the boy soloists who do not sound very good. Hickox, Herreweghe, Brüggen, and Leonhardt are very solid. Gardiner does best here with a rousing instrumental begining and outstanding choral contributions.
The Gloria in excelsis leads into the Et in terra pax which is my favorite part of the Mass in b. It has it all: lyricism, tenderness, longing, tension, power, momentum, joy, etc. It's about as perfect a piece of music I know. Performances must elicit all these emotions and strike deep within me to gain my full approval. Of the nine versions at hand, no one particular performance stands tall above the rest. However, there are three (Gardiner, Hickox, Herreweghe) which don't quite measure up to the others. Gardiner's surprisingly has some vocal/choral moments which are not as precise and expressive as I would expect. Hickox, although good, is not distinctive in any way. Herreweghe's has a tempo handling problem; he clocks in at about 5 minutes while the norm is in the 4 to 4.5 minute range. His performance tends to drag. Compare him to Brüggen who also clocks in at about 5 minutes. Brüggen doesn't drag at all; he gives me the perception that 5 minutes is just right - very impressive.
My original intent was to cover the entire Gloria in one posting. But, I'm finding that listening to 9 versions a multiple number of times is very time-consuming. Roger Hecht - how do you manage it? Anyways, I'll just go at the pace which is comfortable for me.
I'd like to end this posting with a few comments about the one-voice per part issue. I'm not very interested in the historical accuracy of this matter; I am interested in whether the one-voice per part approach can work well, and conductors such as Parrott and Rifkin have proven that it works just fine. Increasing performing forces increases "volume", but has no necessary impact on incisiveness, depth, or expressiveness. Therefore, I find this issue relatively superficial. To bypass Bach recordings on the basis that one-voice per part does not provide the "majesty" of Bach just strikes me as inaccurate.
More of the Gloria in my next posting. It's good to have a Bach thread interspersed with the triple whammy of Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky.
John Smyth wrote (March 1, 2000):
< Donald Satz wrote: More of the Gloria in my next posting. It's good to have a Bach thread interspersed with the triple whammy of Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky. >
I could think of worse whammies!
My composition professor often discussed Tchaikovsky's influence on 20th Century composers, including some of the most towering figures, citing from a fashion-breaking book of which I can't remember the author's name. Does anyone remember?
Donald Satz wrote (March 1, 2000):
<< Donald Satz wrote: So far, Gardiner is doing best with King and Leonhardt close seconds. >>
< Deryk Barker wrote: Oh dear, are things really that bad? I thought JEG's one of the most >superficial B minors I've ever heard. >
Deryk and I are of different minds concering much of Gardiner's recorded output. I can assure every list member who enjoys or prefers Bach's sacred choral works on period instruments that each of the nine versions of the Mass in b are worthy of a place in your home record library.
Not only are things not so bad, they are very good indeed. There's not a "bad" track on any of those recordings. Usually, the best you will hear from a non-hip person is that period instrument performances were very bad in the early days but are getting better. My opinion is that they were fine to begin with and, in general, just keep getting more excellent.
Just for the record, after my second posting on the 9 versions compared, Leonhardt how has a slight edge over Gardiner. I have no idea how it will end up, but doing this little exercise has given me renewed admiration for every version and for the B minor Mass in general.
Donald Satz wrote (March 2, 2000):
<<Donald Satz wrote: It's good to have a Bach thread interspersed with the triple whammy of Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky. >>
< John Smyth wrote: I could think of worse whammies! >
Yes. One day I had a kindney stone attack, migraine headache, and brokfinger. I'd prefer to listen to a whole month of the above composers rather than go through the kidney stone business.
Actually, there is a new Mendelssohn CD I might acquire; it's his string quartets performed by L'Archibudelli on Sony. They are a hard group to resist.
Donald Satz wrote (March 2, 2000):
The third part of the Gloria, Laudamus te, is a lovely and moderately paced aria for soprano. It has an instrumental beginning which shows perfectly just how good a baroque violin can sound; the beauty and pungency of the violin is best heard in its "stretching" the envelope. But ultimately, it's the vocalism which has center stage, and the soprano needs to supply clear diction, expressiveness, and a heavenly voice.
Three of the versions are below the rest; Herreweghe's instrumental contributions don't stretch sufficiently, Brüggen's soprano does not have an appealing tone, and Gardiner, the fastest of all, sounds like he's in a hurry. The remaining versions all do well with the singing and instrumental parts; two are outstanding. Julianne Baird for Rifkin and Isabelle Poulenard for Leonhardt soar up high with full expressivity and delightful voices; this easily tips the scales in their favor.
The fourth part of the Gloria, Gratias agimus tibi, is a climax building choral piece. It might not be quite as varied and majestic as the Et in terra pax, but it is very fine choral music which I appreciate more with time. With this music, it's Pearlman's time to shine; he provides incisive yet beautifully blended singing, and a great flow to the piece which allows for the full measure of the build-up toward the climaxes. At the other end, the Leonhardt and Rifkin versions are a little diffuse, the one-voice per part approach not working well as the voices do not blend sufficiently. The remaining versions are fine.
The fifth part of the Gloria, Domine Deus, is a duet for soprano and tenor. It opens with a lovely instrumental section having strong dance-like characteristics highlighted by the wind and violin playing. For a performance to be excellent, the dance qualities must be strong, the wind/violin playing incisive, and the vocalism highly attractive and well blended. A relatively fast tempo can work quite well and even enhance the dance-like qualities. But, a slow tempo risks destroying the exuberance of the dance.
Pearlman's had no weaknesses but also no strengths except for the soprano Nicole Heaston. There were important times in the Brüggen when it seemed that the violins were in the next County. The flautist in Parrott's version didn't sound totally in sync with the orchestra. The other six versions were all very good without reaching the pinnacle. Herreweghe is the slowest, but he makes it work by providing a "sly" quality to the dance, and those violins sound superb; Barbara Schlick does much better than in recent years, and Howard Crook is outstanding. Rifkin's has fantastic wind playing and a very good soprano in Judith Nelson. Hickox is very good all around; Nancy Argenta displays a better tone quality than in recent years. Gardiner has perfect pacing. King also has great pacing, and the boy sopraono, Matthias Ritter, does quite well. Leonhardt has the best soprano in Isabelle Poulenard although I felt her singing got a little sleepy a couple of times. Leonhardt must have been keeping her up too late - singing.
I have a minor irritation I'd like to share. In 6 of the versions, there are no photographs of the vocal soloists. Even worse, there's no photograph of Isabelle Poulenard. I've conjured up an exquisite looking woman and want to know if I'm right. Like I said, it's just a minor irritation.
Mats Norrman wrote (March 4, 2000):
< Donald Satz wrote: I have a minor irritation I'd like to share. In 6 of the versions, there are no photographs of the vocal soloists. Even worse, there's no photograph of Isabelle Poulenard. I've conjured up an exquisite looking >woman and want to know if I'm right. Like I said, it's just a minor irritation. >
This could well be taken as humour, and I suppose it should. Still it is nice to have a face to think of, of the performers, sometimes, of the ones who have sung to you, as well as when you converse with people over the Internet. But you can't have everything. On the Classical net sites there is no photo of the moderator either, what I think there could have been instead of that dog. I imagine he looks like Riccardo Muti, but I guess I will never know, you can't have everything.:-)
Mats Norrman, who think it nice when liner notes include photos of the performers
Donald Satz wrote (March 5, 2000):
The Credo opens with the Credo in unum Deum, a pulsating and moderately paced choral piece. The pulsating rhythm, pacing, and vocal effectiveness are the keys to this music. Seven of the versions do fairly well including Rifkin's one-voice per part approach which increases the incisiveness of the words. Pearlman is too fast without any offsetting benefits. The best performance is Parrott's which is also one-voice per part and has the flow and pulsating rhythm right on target.
The second part of the Credo is another choral piece, Patrem omnipotentum, which is faster paced and more upbeat than the previous one. All the versions are very good. Brüggen's is the fastest and does best with the climaxes and intrumental contributions. Rifkin provides the slowest pace and is somewhat restrained in power; however, his singers are excellent and the whole is just as incisive as the other versions.
The third part of the Credo, Et in unum Dominum, is a ravishing aria for soprano and alto which possesses significant elelments of serenity, continuous momentum, joy, and robustness. I am very impressed with all the performances. Four (King, Herreweghe, Leonhardt, Hickox) are rather slow with a little loss of robustnness; King's boy sopranos are very good. Brüggen provides a moderate pace and good but not outstanding vocalism. Four versions are outstanding. Parrott's is moderately paced and features the excellent Emma Kirby and a boy soprano who blend beautifully. Rifkin's, also moderately paced, has a great soprano in Judith Nelson and superb instrumental work. Gardiner's has a fast timing which is fine and a superb duo of soprano Patrizia Kwella and mezzo-soprano Mary Nichols. Pearlman speeds along with the captivating soprano Nicole Heaston. This piece is one where I definitely feel that faster is better than slower.
Donald Satz wrote (March 5, 2000):
Continuing with the Gloria, the sixth part, Qui tollis peccata mundi, is a relatively dark choral piece, but it does possess moments of radiance and hope which need to be strongly communicated by the performing forces. Otherwise, it will have a depressing quality at odds with the words. Three of the versions (Brüggen, Pearlman, and Loenhardt) give full measure to the hope inherent in the music. The other versions are partially successful.
The seventh part, Qui sedes ad dextram Patris, is a very tender and lyrical aria for alto or contralto which features the oboe d'amore. I must admit that I was not impressed with any of the vocal soloists. Parrott joins King in using boy sopranos, and it doesn't work well in this piece. Hickox is the only one having a female soloist, Catherine Denley, but she's no better than the males. Michael Chance for Brüggen is working in very smooth acoustic which does not flatter his tone. Leonhardt's René Jacobs is competent. There's no Scholl in this group. But, there are two versions, Gardiner and Rifkin, which are special. Gardiner provides a beautiful flow to the aria, and this time Michael Chance is in a crisp soundstage. Rifkin by far has the best wind playing and placement; it's absolutely stunning and gives the music that extra degree of tenderness and optimism. This isn't the first time I've mentioned how superbly the winds perform and sound; this is clearly a very strong area for Rifkin. And Gardiner continues to display, to me, a great feeling for the flow of the Mass.
The eighth part of the Gloria, Quonaiam tu solus sanctus, is a heroic aria for bass which features the horn. Six versions, Pearlman, Parrot, King, Herreweghe, Gardiner, and Hickox fully display the heroic properties, the horn playing comes through strongly, and vocalism is fine. Two of the versions, Brüggen and Leonhardt, have horn playing which is overly muted, but that is offset by the outstanding vocalism of Harry van der Kamp for Brüggen and either van der Kamp or Max van Egmond for Leonhardt - I can't tell from the notes which bass is applicable although my bet is on van der Kamp. Overall, only Rifkin's version is deficient; his slow pacing simply robs the piece of its heroic quality.
The last part of the Gloria, Cum Sancto Spiritu, is rousing and uplifting choral music. Although effective music, it's not as musically inventive as most of the other choral parts of the Mass. Five of the versions are fine, but four don't compare well; King and Pearlman are too fast, Herreweghe is not inspired, and Rifkin's singers are not vocally attractive.
Having reached the proverbial mid-point of the Mass in b, Leonhardt and Gardiner are looking best. Herreweghe, due to some sluggish performances, holds up the rear.
Donald Satz wrote (March 5, 2000):
While reading the "Repeat" thread and its discussion about HIP-related matters, it made me think that I have not said much of anything about it relating to its significance and don't intend to do so. In the comparisons I am making between performances, I'm registering my perceptions of performance quality, appeal of interpretative decisions, and some degree of allegiance to the spirit of the texts.
The fourth part of the Credo, Et incarnatus est, is mysterious and dark choral music which musically expresses to me the wonder of a spritual conception and resulting birth. Timings vary greatly among the compared versions with Hickox taking over four mintues while Rifkin only needs a litte over two minutes. Both ends work very well. In fact, all versions were very good. Although I initially thought that Hickox would sound sluggish, I ended up feeling that he superbly provided the slow and inexorable features of gestation.
The fifth part, the Crucifixus, deals with suffering and death but not in an opressive manner. This is beautiful and stunning choral music. One version, Lenonhardt's, is outstanding in every way: pacing is perfect, singing is heartfelt and beautiful, and I just can't imagine it being done better. Rifkin and Parrott, one-voice per part, are the two slow performances which stand out for feeling and vocalism. Each of the other six versions are fine.
The sixth part, Et resurrexit, is choral music, you gusssed it, for the resurrection. The crucifying obliterated any sense of hope for humankind. With the resurrection, there is a new spirituality. It was a greatly significant event for the world, actual or not. I would expect music for the event to be very uplifting, and Bach does not let me down. In addition, he uplifts us with a powerful spirituality. Leonhardt's is the version which has just the right pacing and outstanding choral work. Put another way, while the remaining versions are all worthy and uplifting, the Leonhardt is the only one which elicits in me a sense of actual lift-off.
Somewhat of an aside, when I started the reviews, I developed a perception that's only grown stronger with time. I'm finding that the versions recorded in the 1980's have recorded sound that stands up very well to more recent recordings. Yes, recent improvements in technology now allow for ample fullness and richness of sound. However, that comes at the cost of some crispness in sound which is, for me, an important ingredient of sound quality.
Donald Satz wrote (March 7, 2000):
The seventh part of the Credo, Etin Spiritum Sanctum Dominium, is an utterly captivating bass aria featuring the oboe d'amore (two). This is serene music of great subtlety, an easy-going flow, and is entirely uplifting. This might sound odd, but I derived equal pleasure from each version. All the singing was mighty fine, each conductor had a great vision of the music, and the featured instruments were lovely every time. Actually, it really isn't odd since each version is performed by some of the best practitioners of the HIP movement. Just reading through the lists of instrumental performers provides many well-known artists who have gone on to enhanced careers.
The eighth part, Confiteor, is a difficult piece to perform well. it can easily sound a little boring in a droning sense. But, if the conductor well recognizes the pulse of the music which comes from the bass line, insures that the singers are in unison with the pulse, and provides a natural spacing which allows the music to breathe, a very special performance can be the result. Two of the versions, Parrott's and Leonhardt's do just that. Pearlman, Brüggen, and Rifkin have some trouble with the music's pulse. Four of the versions I have no interest in listening to in the future; Herreweghe, Hickox, and Gardiner treat the proceedings as if it's a voter registration drive day, so fast and heavy that there's no room to breathe and staying with the pulse becomes a hardship. King's choral work just doesn't pass the test, and nothing else about it is distinctive. I'm probably sounding critical, but this is the only music in the B minor Mass which represents basic failure for a significant number of the versions compared. I have much admiration for the interpretations from Parrott and Leonhardt.
The last part of the Credo, Et Expecto resurrectionem, is choral music of pomp and triumph. At extremes that both work well, King is the most exuberant and Rifkin the most dignified. Two versions do not provide much of a sense of triumph; Herreweghe can't achieve it at his slow pace, and Gardiner is more theatrical than triumphant.
Current Impressions: Gardiner, after a superior Gloria, does not fare well in the Credo. Leonhardt continues excellently, and Herreweghe hasn't been distinguishing himself. That's surprising, given his two great St. Matthew Passions.
It might just be me, but I find that the first half of the Mass has more immediately appealing music than the second half. It could be that the conductor needs to dig deeper into the Credo to bring out the beauty and impact of the music. Gardiner and Herreweghe are not succeeding well in that respect.
Simon Crouch wrote (March 9, 2000):
< Donald Satz wrote: It might just be me, but I find that the first half of the Mass has more immediately appealing music than the second half. It could be that the conductor needs to dig deeper into the Credo to bring out the beauty and impact of the music. Gardiner and Herreweghe are not succeeding well in that respect. >
I don't think it's just you! I also find that conductors seem to have a hard time changing gear for the second CD. If you wish to add a new recording to your collection, may I recommend Rilling's new performance on Haenssler - It's got just about as good a second disc's worth as I've heard.
Donald Satz wrote (March 9, 2000):
Before I get to the Sanctus, I wanted to mention the listening conditions I'm using. It's headphones all the way with my best equipment. I am liberally using my bass switch and equalizer and making sure that all settings are maximizing sound quality. Sure, there are differences between discs, but also differences between tracks and within tracks on the same disc (significant differences). As an example, the Pearlman Sanctus (slower part) sounded best to me without additional bass; for the faster section, I found the additional bass very gratifying. There are a host of options, and I try them all out before determining my opinion of the recorded performance.
The Sanctus is a relatively long choral piece with the first part of moderate tempo and the second of fast pace. Regardless which part you are listening to, "glory" holds center stage, the glory of life and anything that might come before or after. The performance must convey that sense of glory to this listener. I was interested to see if the recordings that got bogged down in the Credo would continue with more of the same or "snap out of it". Only Leonhardt, Parrott, and Rifkin (in order of preference) distinguishethemselves in the Credo.
Rifkin's Sanctus, taken quite fast, is far from distinguished because of some poor singing which shouldn't have been allowed. Leonhardt and Parrott continue doing well. And I'm glad to say that all the others do likewise. Brüggen is even faster than Rifkin but has no problem. Pearlman flies through the latter section to no ill effect. As for Bach's Sanctus itself, I think of it as one of the best parts of the Mass. It takes a little longer to appreciate than the Et in terra pax, but once it kicks in, you're hooked. This is "reach for the stars" music.
The Osanna comes next and is supremely joyous music of fast pace. Of course, no matter how fast the music is played, it must not sound hurried. But, that's how Brüggen sounds, as if he wanted to move on to something else right away. Leonhardt's account is superior to all others; he has just the right swagger, and his chorus is excellent; I could listen to him all day. The other seven versions are very good. Gardiner's could have been at Leonhardt's level, but he tends to be a little choppy in phrasing.
Up next is the Benedictus, an aria for tenor which features the flute although the violin is considered acceptable; Bach did not specify which instrument to use (all nine versions use the flute). The theme of this aria is "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord". I wrote that out to share with you my belief that there is nothing negative, morose, or foreboding in that theme. It conveys hope and reverence. Yet, most of the versions had a distincty foreboding element conveying a sense of abjectly waiting for your turn at the gallows. Three versions, Gardiner, King, and Hickox, were ever so slow and that pacing really brought out the negative feelings. Parrott, Leonhardt, and Rifkin, although faster paced, also managed to find low points that didn't exist. Herreweghe, Pearlman, and Brüggen are special performances. In the Herreweghe and Pearlman, pacing is attractive, the flute playing sensational, and it's all done without any negativity. I can't say that Brüggen does not eschew the dark side, but his tenor, Nico van der Meel, is absolute perfection in this piece. Nico has a gorgeous tenor voice which is just naturally of good disposition without any lack of reverence.
Another Osanna follows which is the same music as the previous one. This sort of represents a "repeat". What do you think of this one - in or out?
My next and final posting will cover the Agnus Dei and concluding Dona nobis pacem, provide capsule summaries of each recording of the Mass, and include some lasting impressions.
Donald Satz wrote (March 9, 2000):
The Agnus Dei is an aria for alto. "Have mercy on us" is the key part of the text. Judging from all the venom that the world's people spit out on a daily basis and the natural disasters that plague us, we sure could use something. Maybe mercy is just the ticket.
An effective performance of the Agnus Dei always gives me an image of the heavy walk to the crucifixion with the bass notes measuring out each step taken. Every version is very good, even the Brüggen which has the fastest tempo. Parrott's and King's boy sopranos are very good as well. Impressive all around.
The Dona nobis pacem concludes the Mass and is essentially a repeat of the Gratias agimus tibi which was part of the Gloria. It's still great choral music and a fitting tribute to the work.
Level 1 - Leonhardt stands alone. His version has the best choral singing, a delectable soprano in Isabelle Poulenard, and general pacing and "swagger" that's second to none. My only regret about the performance is that the Gratias/Dona nobis pacem is not done very well, and it does show up twice, most importantly at the conclusion of the work. But, you can't get everything from one performance of a majestic composition.
Level 2 - Gardiner, Parrott, and Pearlman. Much of what I said about Lenhardt's recording applies to Gardiner, except that Gardiner's performance fell down significantly in the Credo. Parrott's version is proof to me that a one-voice per part approach can be very effective. Parrott directs well and has excellent contributions from Emma Kirby and boy soloists. Pearlman is one of the faster versions, and it usually works well. He has an outstanding soprano in Nicole Heaston and works wonders in the most appealing choral music.
Level 3 - King, Brüggen, and Rifkin. King's recording offers the best sound, has interesting boy soloists, and in most respects is a fine mainstream version in terms of pacing and spirit. Brüggen's version is very good; he takes chances with a good success ratio and has a great tenor in Nico van der Meel. Rifkin, like Parrott, employs the one-voice per part and usually quite well. He elicits outstanding work from the winds and has excellent sopranos in Judith Nelson and Julianne Baird. Unfortunately, when he "goofs" he goes all the way.
Level 4 - Hickox and Herreweghe. Hickox is the least memorable recording. None of the vocal soloists were special, pacing was moderate, and insights provided were sporadic. Herreweghe provided some special moments not provided by the others, but had a tendency to sluggish tempos. Both he and Hickox had major problems with the Credo.
There it is - all done. Before starting this comparison, I would have said that Gardiner's is the best overall version; his falling off in the Credo must have left my memory. The newest version, Pearlman's, is very impressive and is priced as one disc.
Versions I know little of include Koopman, Max, Harnoncourt, and Thomas. As I said initially, I have the newer Herreweghe recording but have temporarily lost it. With time, I might add them to the collection.
Of course, I wouldn't do this survey for just any composition. I knew that I might have close to 40 hours of listening, but didn't mind the prospect given the gifts inherent in Bach's Mass.
One major item I'd like to emphasize is the pleasure and interest of listening to different interpretations. I'm glad that some use one-voice per part, boy soloists, unusal tempos or dynamics, etc. I appreciate the attempt to be distinctive and personal more than whatever level of results. As Jos commented in an earlier posting, the variety of interpretation that's provided to us is an important factor on its own.
I do hope that Jos does a survey of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) recordings. I'll try, in the background, to keep pace with him and am very interested in reading his perceptions and conclusions.
Jon Lewis wrote (March 13, 2000):
Speaking of the B Minor, my friend Jeff here in Gainesville is a lifelong fanatic for this work. He owns dozens of recordings of it but says none have measured up to an older one he has on LP which he has never been able to locate on CD. It was a 1974 release on RCA of an Erato recording conducted by Michel Corboz, with soloists Perrin, Stämpfli, Schwartz, Perret, Dufour, Tüller, and Huttenlocher. He has the more recent Corboz and doesn't like it as much. So, does anyone know if the old one exists on CD? I searched all my usual worldwide sites and found nothing. Thanks!
Deryk Barker wrote (March 13, 2000):
[To Jon Lewis] Can't help with the CD, but I'll certainly second the recommendation (much use that is I know), although it didn't displace my affection for the old Richter on Archiv.
Bob Dubois wrote (March 14, 2000):
I don't know whether this recording is available on CD, but I do know there are some ohter very good recordings. The very best I know is the one of the "Collegium Vocale, Ghent", with Philippe Herreweghe as conductor (belgian) - a recording of Virgin Classics digital of 1989. Soloist are Barbara Sclick, Catherine Patriasz, Charles Brett, Howard Cook and Peter Kooy.
I hope this might be useful to prove there are other very good recordings.
Peter Lundin wrote (March 15, 2000):
I don't know whether this recording is available on CD, but I do know Not being as methodical as Don (Satz), wen I had a B-minor (or rather BACH) flu three years ago, I did a shootout in the local CD-emporium, and the one Recording I picked has not been covered byDon (or anyone else AFAIR) It on Berlin Classics (BC 1063-2) with the "Akademie Fur Alte Musik, Berlin" & Rias-Kammerchor, soloists: Hillevi Martinpelto, Bernarda Fink, Axel Kohler, Christoph Prégardien, Mattias Gorne & Franz-Josef Selig, led by the distinguishable René Jacobs.
Then, it was the only recordings out of 5 (Gardiner - Archiv, Koopman - Erato, Ericson - Vanguard, Herreweghe - Virgin - all HIP), that really had the right Bachiness, the right swung, today I might be wrong, still; since I haven’t had an urge to re-evaluate my purchase, I'll stick to it.
Donald Satz wrote (March 15, 2000):
(To Peter Lundin) I thank Peter for mentioning this set which I was unaware of. I looked it up at CDNOW, and it is still listed for sale. It was issued in 1994, has a fine set of soloists, and Marcus Creed directs the choir. There were some sound samples available, and what I heard definitely sounded in the right ballpark. There was even a review attached which was complimentary except that the reviewer felt that the Et in terra pax of the Gloria was performed too slowly. The sample I heard of the Et in terra pax was slow, but I'd have to listen to the whole thing to arrive at any conclusion concerning the interpretation.
This Jacobs set will be the next item I order on-line, and I'll subsequently provide my opinion of the recording. Berlin Classics also has a B minor Mass conducted by Peter Schreier, presumably on modern instruments.
Again, my thanks to Peter. I have other B minor Masses to acquire as well, but with Peter's high opinion of Jacob's set, I might as well start with the Jacobs. I still can't find my copy of Herreweghe's 2nd set, but I know it's here somewhere.
Continue to Part 4