It's a shame - we have one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, a renowned conductor - but we are given a reading of this majestic work that sounds as though Gardiner was simply going through the motions. For sure there is some very sensitive singing and some very tight and almost exciting choral work, but, overall, the performance seems strangely devoid of life. I was surprised at some very odd tempo fluctuations which really disturbed the natural 'line' of the music. I feel that Gardiner has allowed ego to interfere here over the true purity and soul of the work - fine if you are Karajan or Andrew Parrott, they pull it off, but Gardiner seems to lack imagination in this CD, and his vision of the work is not on a par with other recordings.
Yes, the 'purist' angle can be argued again and again - original instruments, no vibrato, and all that - but was Gardiner not aware that his players were, at times, making horrific sounds? One cannot imagine that Bach would have approved of such 'noises'. Surely the art of performing Bach (and so many other composers) is to try and relay the fundamental message and intention - in this case a glorious Mass, one of the great works of all time - so therefore it is the 'duty' of conductors to think of the enjoyment and satisfaction of listeners and to pose the question: 'Am I giving my best and will the real message of the music come through'. I feel that perhaps Gardiner ought to start asking these questions and listening, objectively, to the often unacceptable sounds his players produce.
Overall then, not a great listening experience, but it's surprising that, despite the negative comments I've written above, there were sections of this performance that were satisfying. I feel that Gardiner can hit the mark if he wants - alas he didn't here.