Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Mass in B Minor, BWV232

Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Mass in B Minor, BWV232

Article excerpt

JS Bach [G]

Mass in B minor, BWV232 Lydia Teuscher, Ida Falk Winland sops Tim Mead counterten Samuel Boden ten Neal Davies bass Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen Hyperion [F] [2] CDA68051/2 015'*DDD*T/t)

With major Bach vocal works now appearing on Hyperion, notably under Stephen Layton, the absence of an a la mode Mass in B minor had left an obvious gap for one of our most 'completist' of major record companies, not least because their last and only recording--Robert King's 1996 recording with the wayward Tolzers was only a qualified success and has not worn particularly well.

Jonathan Cohen's rejection of the generic, within a grand and ravishing overview, is what propels an overwhelming sense here that this reading deserves to be taken very seriously. Quite how in performance one 'reads' the span of a piece whose spiritual and intellectual symmetries are potentially so forbidding raises many issues but Cohen's unforced feel for tactus, initially heard in the prima prattica (the more archaic) movements is revelatory in its coherence: witness the way the second 'Kyrie' arches with natural fluidity in a kind of liturgical knowingness. The same can be said, right at the close, in a 'Dona nobis pacem' which glows with a broad, valedictory affirmation that Karl Richter would have relished.

If, over the years, one can identify accounts with particular 'corporate' identities--the strong instrumental balance in Frans Briiggen's first version (Philips) or the homogeneous priorities of each of Herreweghe's three readings--the most distinctive attribute here is how Cohen, with his exceptional choral and instrumental forces, resists pursuing a single overall textural ideal and instead seeks an evolving, unrushed relationship between each movement according to the musical stage in the journey. …

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