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J S Bach: Mass in B minor BWV 232 Box set


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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f12ab64) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f138858) out of 5 stars The best I know 28 Oct. 2005
By Herman Ivan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I knew and owned this recording when it was published in the sixties; I played it so much that the vinyl disc became unplayable... Ever since that time I was looking for a recording of the Mass in B Minor, but none of what I found could come close. This record is so full of life, of feelings... I used to say that for just about any human feelings one can find parts of this recording to match it.

It is also on this recording that I got to know the voice of Janet Baker, which is quite amazing. One can recognize the special timbre of her voice whenever she sings; it is a unique experience.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1389a8) out of 5 stars A great performance in an updated remastering 11 Oct. 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is EMI's curent remastering of Klemperer's classic B minor Mass from 1967. Along with Klemperer's St. Matthew Passion, this recording was the summit of what he could do in Bach. The vocal soloists are wonderful, especially the women led by Janet Baker. In retrospect these were the best Bach singers in Europe, and the ones we hear on period performances from Gardiner and Herrenweghe, among others, are inferior by comparison. Over and over we now get accomplished vocal technicians without spiritual involvement in Bach's passionate Protestantism (blessed exceptions being Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Thomas Quasthoff).

The Philharmonia Chorus, trained by the legendary Wilhelm Pitz (who also led the Bayreuth Festival chorus) at this time was probably the best in the world. Klemperer's tempos are stately but full of life in their inward way, and the overall experience fills one with Bach's sense of joyful worship.

P.S. 2011 -- For anyone who is of an age or inclination to enjoy such old-fashioned grandeur and reverence in Bach, there are two other stereo versions of the B minor Mass that are pendants to this one. The first, under Karajan, dates from the same period of mid-Sixties and is distinctly more polished -- some might say overly polished -- with equally prominent opera singers as soloists. There are drawbacks to the sound on both the Klemperer and Karajan, the large choruses being particularly fuzzy, so there's little to choose between them. For a huge cathedral sound coupled with superb musicality, there is a live account under Giulini, taped by the BBC in 1972 (on BBC Legends). It is gentler than either of its rivals, and although live, the performance is of studio quality. One glitch may be the vast space of St. Paul's Cathedral, where the reverberation time is several seconds more than any concert hall, but the engineers have done a good job handling that.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f138918) out of 5 stars Dignified Bach 12 Feb. 2008
By Johannes Climacus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Though hardly a Baroque "specialist," Klemperer was one of the greatest Bach interpreters of his generation. Do not expect from him the brisk tempos, energetic rhythms and light textures of current period performance practice. If you are not used to more traditional Bach interpretations, patience may be called for. But patience will be rewarded, for Klemperer's dignified conception of the B-Minor Mass is little short of awe-inspiring.

Klemperer's success in this work hinges on his ability to convey a sense of mystery without introducing gratuitous expressive gestures such as sudden dynamic shifts or manipulation of tempo within a movement. For the most part, he maintains a rock-steady pulse and long-breathed lines, while managing effortlessly to highlight contrapuntal detail along the way. His subtle inflection of voice-leading even in the denser thickets of Bach's polyphonic textures is masterly. In fact, no conductor I have heard in this work clarifies texture and structure better than Klemperer.

There are some drawbacks. Klemperer is better at conveying majesty than rambustious joy and thus certain movements are wanting in vitality, particularly "Gloria in excelsis Deo," "Cum Sancto Spiritu," and "Osanna in excelsis." One does want more rhythmic spring, too, in movements such as "Laudamus Te" and "Et in unum Dominum." His chorus manages to articulate well for a relatively large group, though they don't achieve anything like the clarity and agility of which today's early-music ensembles are capable. I must also note that by this stage in his career, Klemperer was not always able to exert perfect control over his forces, so that there are moments of un-coordinated ensemble and a few other slips here and there.

In the end, however, these drawbacks recede to insignificance when compared with Klemperer's overall achievement in this work. Throughout, he has the benefit of superb vocal and instrumental soloists to assist him. Among the former, Janet Baker, Agnes Giebel, and Franz Crass are outstanding; for some, their contribution alone will be worth the price of admission. The recording, which was originally rather opaque on LP, has been transformed in this digital remastering, so that the sonics now convey a greater sense of presence and amplitude.

Adventurous listeners who enjoy exploring historic recordings, and who have an open mind when it comes to stylistic matters, will find that this is one to treasure. Bach with dignity is seldom encountered on the fast lane of the contemporary early-music scene, and for that reason Klemperer's version of the B-minor Mass provides an invaluable and refreshing supplement to whatever early-music renditions of the work you may already own.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f138810) out of 5 stars Great spiritual depth and powerful architecture. 6 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is the kind of approach that "authenticists" will loath, particularly regarding the broad tempi and the massive conception (although Klemperer uses a comparatively small choir and orchestra -at least small for 1967). I have seen adjectives such as "victorian", "portentous" or "sanctimonious" attached to this kind of interpretation. The "authenticists" underline elements of instrumentation, size and style, but forget about a dimension which is absolutely essential in the Mass in B Minor: "spiritual authenticity". Bach's music is the product of a man of faith who dedicated all his works to the glory of God. These are the depths reached by an interpreter like Klemperer. You must listen to his Mass in B Minor not as great piece of baroque music (which it certainly is) but above all as a timeless expression of devout faith. All the formal and technical elements are important but ultimately peripheral. Like St. Peter's in Rome, Klemperer's Bach in B Minor is monumental (in the right sense of the word). And like St Peter's you need a certain perspective to appreciate it. It is built in large blocks and it takes time (like the versions by Jochum and Giulini). But the results are overwhelmingly powerful.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f138de0) out of 5 stars Late Klemperer at his best 21 July 2005
By Derek Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
If you feel that Bach needs to be intimate, with scaled-down forces, in order to be effective, this definitely is not for you. Klemperer viewed Bach as a monumental, epic composer, and saw the Mass in B minor as not only Bach's greatest work, but the greatest musical creation of Western civilization. I tend to agree with this view; as Wilhelm Furtwangler put it, performing Bach's great choral works with small ensembles is like trying to turn Michelangelo's Moses into a desk trinket without making it appear absurd. In less capable hands such an approach would feel artificial, bloated even, but Klemperer had such a keen sense of form that one always feels the inner logic of the music. As an example, listen the Gloria in excelsis followed by Et in terra pax: in the transition, the powerful and majestic gloria transforms inexplicably but inevitably into the mysterious et in terra, and then gradually, ever so slowly, builds through the fugue to it's climax, even greater in proportions than in the gloria. Klemperer, like Furtwangler, understood that form is not only about differentiating the various themes that occur in a piece, but also placing them in their logical context. Indeed, with the German classics, especially Bach and Beethoven, it is not the themes themselves that carry the spiritual content of the piece, but rather the evolving context in which they are placed. If you compare this recording of the B minor mass to many more modern ones, you can immediately see how rare a gift this is. Most conductors are happy at merely executing the notes precisely, or at best giving a sense of the expression, but the greatest of the great were never happy with this. As Mahler put it, what is best in the music is not to be found in the notes.

As far as the performance quality, the soloists are beyond superb. I have never heard performances of the arias that can touch these. The Philharmonia orchestra is in top form, and the BBC choir, while occasionaly having balance or intonation problems, copes very well with the demands Klemperer places on it. The recorded sound is superb, as one would expect from the late 60's (I have never understood why so many people refuse to listen to non-digital recordings, as if the tiny bit of added clarity digital has to offer makes the performance suddenly worthwhile).

I have often wondered why there was such a difference between Karajan's two studio recordings of the B minor mass, from the 50's and the 70's. The first seems light, airy, and lyrical, while the latter is, put bluntly, overweight. Listening to this, it seems fairly clear to me that Karajan was trying to borrow from Klemperer's approach here: his lack of success is yet more evidence of Klemperer's sovereign command of this music. He only listened to one of his recordings for the pleasure of it: this was it.
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