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 Maria Keohane, Joanne Lunn, Else Torp, Hanna Kappelin sops Alex Potter, Valdemar Villadsen countertens Jan Kobow, Chris Watson tens Peter Harvey, Jakob Bloch Jespersen basses Concerto Copenhagen / Lars Ulrik Mortensen CPO [F] (2) [SCAD]. CP0777 851-2 (104' * DDD * T/t)

There are a plethora of period-instrument recordings of the B minor Mass big and small, from The King's Consort's 73 players and singers (Hyperion) to Cantus Colin's 29 musicians (Harmonia Mundi). It is futile to debate whether there is a meaningful pecking order of recordings of the piece, let alone a single benchmark version. Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen adopt the minimalist one-voice-per-part approach to the choir, as advocated by the research of Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott: 10 expert voices have been chosen shrewdly, with five 'concertino' singers (the soloists) reinforced in choruses by an additional five 'ripieni' voices.

Polemical debates about performance practice will continue to rage on and will probably never be settled satisfactorily, but in the meantime open-minded Bachians might be content to simply evaluate each performance according to how successful it is in reaching a clear set of aesthetic aims. To my mind, Mortensen's special performance, which is full to the brim with insightful musicianship and has a refreshing avoidance of contrived formulas, comfortably joins Parrott (EMI), Junghanel and John Butt (Linn) as the finest examples of this kind of perspective on performing Bach's monumental sacred masterpiece.

The opening strains of the Kyrie are phrased compassionately, and the unfurling fugue has an impeccable balance and shapeliness, with an equal democratic balance between the instrumentalists and singers achieving results that are both coherent and eloquent. …

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