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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPERB, 7 Aug 2013
This review is from: J.S. Bach: Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 (Audio CD)
As with the accompanying Harnoncourt St Matthew Passion utilising the same forces (minus female soloists that is in favour of countertenor and boy soprano) this set is the only one I would keep on the shelf, if I had to get rid of all the others.

All of the soloists blend beautifully and possess individual voices of ethereal beauty. The transparency achieved with smaller chamber like forces (but not ridiculously pared down like the whimsical Rifkind set which is silly!) yields a delightful, graceful performance and the strings are luminous, instruments sing clearly and voices can be heard clearly. The recorded sound is superb and in particular a pronounced stereo balance serve the music well.

Of course, you will not find the monumental grandeur of the Klemperer version on EMI, but apart from sheer weight, which is only really necessary or even effective in certain of the choral sections (such as the Credo...which in Klemperer is an unbelievable orchestral sounding march towards God worthy of the massed choirs of the Salvation Army)nothing is missing here.
The incredible musical and cultural peak of achievement that is the Mass is delivered with absolute conviction and beauty of sound.

Just listen to the Domine Deus, the duet between soprano and tenor, where the strings break through like light shining down from the heavens in a religious painting...has this ever been performed or recorded so successfully?

And at this price, no Bach collection should be without it.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Attractive but lightweight, 9 Feb 2012
Musica Vita (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: J.S. Bach: Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 (Audio CD)
I do not have these CDs, but I have owned the vinyl version for many years and as nobody else in the UK has written about this milestone recording I will put a few thoughts down. This was first recording of the Mass in B minor to be made according to the performing practices of Bach's day, and must be regarded as pioneering or even experimental. In his detailed notes, Nikolaus Harnoncourt explains the reasons for his choice of just about everything to do with his performance, even the numbers of player and singers in each section of the orchestra and choir. Almost needless to say the numbers are quite small. The choir uses boy trebles, but the alto and soprano soloists are female, and all five are very suited to the music. The pitch is lower than modern concert pitch by about one semitone. This disturbs me, but many listeners will not notice.

The first Kyrie is taken at a tempo about 50% faster than Klemperer in his EMI recording, in other words about normal for nowadays. But nothing in the rest of the work is at all rushed, and in a few numbers Harnoncourt is actually slower than Klemperer. The woodwind is clear, the trumpets do not drown out the rest, and the strings, played without vibrato, are not gritty as they are in many period-instrument performances. The corno da caccia in "Quoniam" is rather uneven, but one must make allowances for the fact that this was a time of pioneering. The orchestra seems to have a good understanding of Bach's style, yet I cannot but feel that the six- and eight-part choruses "Sanctus" and "Hosanna" need more singers to give a good balance. However Harnoncourt treats Bach's score with great reverence, and the result is generally convincing.

This recording has given me great pleasure and is easy to listen to, but I would not recommend it as a first choice, as the overall effect is lightweight, and to my mind does not do justice to the majesty of this work. Unless "authenticity" is of paramount importance to you, consider Karl Richter.
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J.S. Bach: Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232
J.S. Bach: Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 by Rotraud Hansmann (Audio CD - 2007)
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