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4.8 out of 5 stars19
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on 7 February 2012
According to the booklet, Otto Klemperer considered the Mass in B minor to be the greatest music ever written. Accordingly he put all his long experience into the production of this recording, insisting on reduced forces and soloists whose voices would suit the music. The BBC Chorus and New Philharmonia were possibly the best in Britain at the time, and it is hardly possible to imagine a better team of soloists. EMI's engineers also did a good job, although there is some congestion in the loudest passages.

The first Kyrie is taken at about crotchet/quarter-note = 40, which seems painfully slow at first, but have patience and listen to the gradual unfolding of this magnificent fugue. Klemperer had the ability to convince the listener that his way was right, no matter how unconventional. Thereafter, the tempi are generally more as usually heard, and in those other sections which are taken slowly, again listen and be convinced.

The possible downside of this performance is that in some movements the players sound to be unfamiliar with Bach's style (perhaps they were at that time) and there is, to me at least, a certain sense of struggle. It is possible that this is what Klemperer wanted, but nowhere is there an easy fluency such as Richter achieves with his Munich orchestra. The choir is excellent and the soloists are beyond reproach.

This interpretation has depth, grandeur, majesty in abundance and magnificent solo/duet singing, Janet Baker's Agnus Dei especially. Recommended, but if you like more vitality and joy in your Mass, listen to Richter.
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All the reviews so far have been uniformly positive and I am just going to add my voice to the throng.

Anyone reading my reviews may have noticed that I have reviewed four other performances by Karajan [2 of them], Gardiner and Munchinger. I also have another three recordings of this sublime work which I have not [yet] reviewed. I am not going to say which one is the best because they all bring individual insights and I would not want to be without any of them. I am not so dogmatic as to say that modern performances are superior to historically informed ones or vice versa. What matters to me is sheer musical excellence and communication.

In my opinion, this performance is really very special. I feared that it would be too slow [I certainly am not a fan of Klemperer's St Matthew Passion] but here the slowness did not worry me. There was so much of interest in the notes and more importantly a sense of great import in the musical direction that I felt compelled to listen.

As well as a wonderful orchestra, Klemperer had the BBC Chorus [in reality the BBC Singers] as his choir. This is a very positively voiced choir [it had Robert Tear among its tenor] and they sing with a richer fuller tone than Karajan's Vienna Singverein Chorus. They are not a large choir and I suspect that the orchestra was smaller as well, so the performance is a bit of a nod to authenticity.

I am impressed by all the soloists, especially Agnes Giebel and Janet Baker. Nicolai Gedda was 15 years older than he was when he recorded the work with Karajan and the voice is not so heady and beautiful as it had been in 1952 but it is still very effective singing.

I am glad to have this recording. It is not quite so effecting as Karajan's earlier recording nor does it display the sheer brilliance that Gardiner brought to the music but it does communicate the grandeur and beauty of Bach's masterpiece and I thorougly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2006
Originally recorded during late autumn of 1967, this supreme work by Bach has been digitally remastered and labelled as one of the Great Recordings of the Century. Composed during mid 18thC, this Bach masterpiece has been performed and recorded many times over the years. I must admit, I was never drawn to Bach due to the fact that being a Mahlerian and a Wagnerian, I didnt think I would take to this music anyway. However, after hearing the Crucifixus (Part III Credo) on a sample disc, I realised that this was something rather different. Listening to this version, I soon came to understand why it has so many admirers around the world. It is a wonderful piece, beautifully played and sung. And the remastering team has achieved wonders with this difficult material for the sound is spacious, the singers clear, and the chorus superb. Otto Klemperer, who died in 1973 holds this superb work together along with the chorus and singers. The music due to consistent tempi throughout, never flags. It just simply flows from one piece to the next. The highlights of the piece can be found in Part III Credo, although I am sure many listeners will have their own favourites. Lasting some 135 minutes, it keeps the listener enthralled throughout. The work ends gloriously with the Chorus rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem. A supreme work which indeed is one of the great recordings of the century.
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on 19 January 2006
I must have spent a bucket load on this or that "period"/"original" recordings of this monumental music.
I wasted every penny. Not one of them measures up; worse they under-value the glory of this great music.
Here is a performance with an unmatched set of soloists - like Janet Baker, Nicolai Gedda and Herman Prey - who need not fear any of today's competition.
Listen to the closing chorus of the Kyrie - Cum Sancto Spiritu - you know you are in the presence of Western Music's greatest composer, realised by one of its greatest conductors.
Six stars, please Amazon!
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on 27 July 2011
Without any reservations this is my favorite recording of this piece. The Soloists and Chorus is nothing short of superb and the whole package as lead by Dr Klemperer is beyond reproach.

I completely understand the attraction of 'period' versions of Bach - it is interesting to hear it like it would have been heard originally. But Bach always wanted 'bigger' and 'more' so I think this rendition is totally in line with what he would have wanted to hear.

Outstanding and a must for every lover of Choral/Religious music
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on 20 April 2015
No other recording gives Bach's Mass the splendour and magnificence that Klemperer and his team provide here. Despite often quite slow tempi, Klemperer manages to give the music a powerful impetus, a sense of propulsion that reminds me of a huge juggernaut thundering along a motorway. Only very occasionally does he gives the impression of someone trying to rush upstairs while carrying a heavy sack - but such moments of laborious heaviness are few.

Like another reviewer here, I have spent sackloads of money buying other recordings, trying to find new ways to hear the Bmin Mass. But I cannot escape the feeling that modern, 'historically informed' performances lighten the textures and rhythms - and increase the tempi - to the point where the music is trivialised, drained of nearly all its potency and impact. It's joyful when the music dances, as it does in the best of those recordings, but it's not enough: the splendour and magnificence of the music are stolen from it by musicological ideology and dogma.

Klemperer's soloists are superb, and the choir sings with urgent passionate commitment.

If you find Klemperer too heavy-handed (many do) but you nevertheless want a 'traditional' recording, then Jochum's EMI version is absolutely superb - though I can't find any pleasure of the awful singing of his tenor in the Benedictus.

If you really do want to hear how modern minds hear, and want us to hear, this music, then Robert King's version on Hyperion is superb. But my objections to this style of performance remain even with King's excellent and exciting direction - the music is lightened to the point of trivialisation. Imagine moving from a cathedral to a very attractively appointed, brightly lit café.

No - Klemperer is supremely successful here and I recommend this recording wholeheartedly. Play it loud - fill your house with its magnificence.
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on 31 March 2012
I do not believe it an overstatement to say that Bach's sublime, B Minor Mass is one of the greatest artistic achievements of mankind. This expression of religious faith and devotion spiritually elevates and ennobles the listener, adding immeasurably to civilisation as we understand it. Bach's B Minor Mass is his gift to the world! Alas, Bach, himself, never heard the whole Mass complete and after his death it was forgotten until its revival in the early 19th century. Those early audiences failed to grasp the true genius of the work, but eventually its greatness and sheer profundity proved irresistible and Bach's Mass is now recognised as being a work of genius!

Klemperer's is good, old-fashioned, solid conducting - Bach without the over-ornamentation, emasculated forces and brisk tempi favoured by the period instruments' lobby. "Authentic" baroque music played on original instruments? Who needs it! Klemperer's soloists and chorus are very fine indeed - the power, precision and clarity of the fugal choruses leave little to be desired. The opening Kyrie, a vast fugue, is shaped and moulded by Klemperer who never once falters during its 13 minute span! The dynamic opening of the Credo and Donna nobis pacem - which builds to a tremendous climax - benefit from Klemperer's iron grip and slower tempi which allow the music space in which to develop its full dynamic contrasts. Klemperer generates plenty of energy and excitement, with thrilling crescendi in the Gloria.

Orchestra and chorus are well-defined and incisive with instrumental soloists giving good accounts of themselves - there is much delicacy, beautiful phrasing and deft articulation from the obbligato players. It goes without saying that Janet Baker's Agnus Dei is sublimely beautiful. The magnificent Sanctus features some impressive playing from the brass section and Nicolai Gedda's aria "Benedictus" is incredibly moving. There are many instances of brilliant playing and singing too numerous to mention - all concerned do justice to Bach's monumental, masterpiece. This is one of the greatest recordings in the catalogue and its purchase WILL bring spiritual enlightenment, intellectual enrichment and enhance your life - you can bank on it!

The sound quality of this recording (1967) has considerable dynamic impact, breadth and depth. Balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra is spot-on.
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on 20 April 2013
Excellent singing from the choir and soloists (what else would you expect) but the slow speeds and heavy interpretation do not give the work justice in my view: it looses some of the life that it should have. Still very impressive unlikely to be to everyone's taste.
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on 31 October 2013
This is just the best recording of the B Minor Mass ever, with a superb bonus for Janet Baker fans. Probably not for the minimalist or fans of authentic instruments. But for sheer gut-wrenching power and fidelity to the feeling driving the score - not to mention virtuosity - this can't be beat (except perhaps by a live performance conducted by someone like Andris Nelsons), I bought this to replace a 1968 Nikolaus Harnoncourt recording (with authentic instruments) on vinyl which has given great pleasure over four decades although have always thought the tempo a little fast (but no expert). I much prefer the Klemperer performance. Impossible to say whether this preference is due to my own advancing age or other factors.
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on 18 January 2015
If you like slow tempi this is the one for you. It was too slow for my taste
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