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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greater than Stars or Sun
It is frightening to think that for the better part of seventy years, the Mass in B Minor sat around as a manuscript until Nageli's act of annunciation: behold "the greatest musical artwork of all times and all people." Bach must have foreseen such a hibernation for the manuscript itself is a formidable production.

Universal Australia is exhuming one treasure...
Published on 30 Dec. 2012 by Bernard Michael O'Hanlon

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Once maybe a 'classic' of its kind
Well, `You pays your money and you takes your choice'. For my money this version, praised and extolled as it has been, is hardly a serious contender for our allegiance.

All is eminently civilised - but equally all is so `proper' that what ought (perhaps) to be a virtue becomes too often a defect. The performance in general sounds too deliberate, too...
Published 14 months ago by R. C. Ross


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greater than Stars or Sun, 30 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Bach: Mass in B Minor/ Cantata BWV 56 (Audio CD)
It is frightening to think that for the better part of seventy years, the Mass in B Minor sat around as a manuscript until Nageli's act of annunciation: behold "the greatest musical artwork of all times and all people." Bach must have foreseen such a hibernation for the manuscript itself is a formidable production.

Universal Australia is exhuming one treasure after another. With this re-release, we are further indebted to it. Marriner's performance of the Mass, recorded in June/July 1977, is a perfect balance of clarity and power. It avoids the pitfalls of excessive, if not soupy torque (Bach: Mass in B minor just as it shuns the emotional sterility and miniaturisation of others Bach: Mass in B minor & Bach: Messe in h-moll. It is Marriner's finest hour (and thanks Ralph Moore for bringing it to my attention). One could say the same of Dame Janet Baker. Richard Strauss spoke enviously of Mozart's endless melody in Voi che sapete - he could have said much the same thing of the G Minor Angus Dei where the famous alto channels the Dido-within to lament the slaughtered Christ. Margaret Marshall sings as creamily as ever. The tenor, Robert Tear, is adequate. The gigantic fugues in the Credo, Gloria and Sanctus are thrillingly performed (and no wonder, with a chorus master of Laszlo Heltay's stature at hand). Sometimes I think there is no better recording than a warm analogue recording, lovingly remastered: that's what is on offer here. And it is perfectly balanced.

All performances of this masterwork are approximations at best. This version comes closer than any other to an act of consummation. It is as addictive as any narcotic.

It comes in train with a classic account of Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 232 - one of the great meditations on death. It is movingly sung by John Shirley Quirk. The performance is on the same plane as the celebrated triptych that these forces likewise recorded in the Sixties Cantatas 82, 159 & ,170. It is so much more listenable and potent than the 'boa constrictor' alternative in the old Harnoncount cycle which rightly came in that unique tint of brown that brought other associations to mind . . . . . In Marriner's hands, the recitative is just as mesmerising as the chorus or arias. The great pity here is that no-one commissioned these forces at the time to undertake a complete cycle - now that would have been a world-beater.

We live in a neo-Babylonian world that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. What is a mere Aston Martin compared with this Musical Offering? Oh, hurry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly lovely, 18 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Bach: Mass in B Minor/ Cantata BWV 56 (Audio CD)
Where has this recording been hiding all my life?

I used to own Jochum's monumental, too weighty, digital Bavarian version of the B Minor Mass; and have on my shelves Gardiner's - which I find, at many points, rushed, mechanical and clinical - where is the dance?
And now, at last, I have this, which delights and moves me at every turn. When did the, usually stolid sounding, Gratias agimus tibi, in the middle of the Gloria, ever dance like this? And the same can be said at many other points. Janet Baker simply eats up the Agnus Dei (spine tingling), the recording is superb, the playing and choral singing an endless joy.

I am reminded of Haydn's comment - "When I think of God, I can't help but feel happy."

Quite so.

Snap it up - and be quick!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Once maybe a 'classic' of its kind, 7 Mar. 2014
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R. C. Ross (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Mass in B Minor/ Cantata BWV 56 (Audio CD)
Well, `You pays your money and you takes your choice'. For my money this version, praised and extolled as it has been, is hardly a serious contender for our allegiance.

All is eminently civilised - but equally all is so `proper' that what ought (perhaps) to be a virtue becomes too often a defect. The performance in general sounds too deliberate, too `reverential', at times it borders on the lugubrious, at other times it is finicky. The `Et in terra pax' of the Gloria may be cited, so too the `Laudamus' that follows - here even the (generally) peerless Janet Baker sounds oddly prissy and artificially prim; Dame Janet's contribution in the Klemperer recording (made a decade earlier) was in every way superior.

All-too-often Mariner (and his St Martin's soloists) are incongruously mannered - with over-emphatic slowings at the end of sections and over-long concluding fermata, at times almost humorously so (for instance, again, Et in terra pax and Gratias agimus tibi, and Cum Sancto Spiritu). In other words, this performance holds no nasty shocks for those who deplore an `historically informed' approach. But it is, as another critic put it, as if `the performers and the conductor were suffering from a collective artistic hangover'.

For those who have found that some credence given to the historical context of Bach's music actually breathes life into what had all often become a valley of dry bones there are alternative recordings that have breathed and that in turn breathe the breath of the Creator Spirit.

If one prefers forces of (approximately) equivalent size to Marriner's I would strongly recommend Harnoncourt's first recording, Frans Bruggen (Decca Audior) and/or Gustav Leonhardt's sensitively conceived recording with Le Petite Band (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi). If you don't come out in a rash at the mere thought of one singer a part then Sigiswald Kuijken's more recent recording (Challenge Classics, again with La Petite Band) will richly repay your time. (How one can object to that delicate and subtle performance while singing the praises of Marriner's ill-conceived version is beyond me.) Of recordings in a more `traditional', style Rilling's earlier version (Sony), Munchinger (Decca), Giulini (Sony) and Klemperer (EMI) all seem to me to be far more satisfying and rewarding.
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Bach: Mass in B Minor/ Cantata BWV 56
Bach: Mass in B Minor/ Cantata BWV 56 by Shirley-Quirk (Audio CD - 2013)
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