The genius of Bach's Mass in B-Minor is that it is open to musical interpretation, it may have been assembled by Bach in his final years from parts he had written previously, but that does not dictate how Bach expected it or even imagined it to be performed. Part of Bach's genius may have been leaving this complete work unperformed in his lifetime thus allowing conductors music on which to set free their imagination. That is key to expressing the heavenly and earthy emotions, suffering and praise they personally see in the music. However, too often strong emotions have been displayed concerning how this work should be interpreted. On this third interpretation by Herreweghe he manages to improve on his already impressive recordings revealing an evolved and acoustically soothing style, even his study of medicine, psychiatry and music seem to be displayed in this healing elegance. I do not think it possible - or even desirable - to have a definitive interpretation and I have over 35 recordings of this masterpiece all of which have different reasons they deserve to be listened to but, if you are only looking for one recording of this work, please consider this a worthy candidate. It does not have a massive choir to vigorously sing out the certain sections where some may consider it desirable but it is ethereal, emotional and in many places has a heavenly quality befitting the theological underpinning of this work signed Soli Deo Gloria.
Like a diamond with reflected light Bach's masterpiece displays brilliance whatever light is shone on it. There is no right or wrong way to perform this work but I do believe the important thing about Bach would be that it is still challenging us to praise God and for it to give glory to the Creator and Herreweghe gives us just that, this could move even Richard Dawkins to express the emotion of worship.
There are times I want a slower - or faster tempo and on certain movements my personal taste would be for a larger choir but that is why I own so many recordings but, if you only want to purchase one recording, this has many points in its favour and gets five stars from me.
How do you describe this work? Restrained, ethereal, balanced, luxuriant are worth using but I think the best would be healing, devotional or spiritual and that is why I think I will be playing this more often than the other versions. Soli Deo Gloia indeed. Thank you Bach, thank you Herreweghe. Soli Deo Gloria.