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Bach, J.S.: Mass In B Minor BWV 232

Bach, J.S.: Mass In B Minor BWV 232

1 Jan 1985
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Bach, J.S.: Mass In B Minor BWV 232
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1:43
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Disc 2
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1:55
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2
1:52
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3
4:10
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4
3:25
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5
3:06
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6
3:47
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7
5:28
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8
2:31
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9
3:33
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10
5:23
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11
2:30
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12
4:47
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13
2:32
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14
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15
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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 1 Jan. 1985
  • Release Date: 2 Dec. 1985
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • Copyright: ℗© 1985 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:45:35
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001LQQI1M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,101 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
There are some pieces you can get away with getting cheap recordings of, but when it comes to the monolothic Mass in B Minor I think it's well worth spending a few extra quid to get a good recording - or in this case, a near flawless one.
This massive, complex and enormously inflential work commands so much respect, it must be terrifying to perform it, but Gardiner's team certainly pulls it off brilliantly. Don't be put off by the authentic instruments aspect of this recording - Gardiner doesn't fall into the trap that so many other authentic instrument conductors seem to fall into: taking the pieces at breakneck speed. The speeds certainly aren't slow, but never feel rushed either. Also, despite being quite a small choir the Monteverdi's sound is very impressive.
Finally, the all-important solo and duet arias are all executed flawlessly - especially my particular favourites the almost unbearably melancholy Agnus Dei and strangely bittersweet Domine Deus. Seriously bordering on perfection here!
This CD set also comes with some very in-depth and insightful liner notes, useful to set the work in context and explain its idiosyncracies etc.
So, yes, it may be quite expensive, but with a work of art like this, why settle for anything less?
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The Choral singing is stunning and glorious, unfortunately the soloists are not at the same level (sometimes unbelievably the quality is without real feeling or technical perfection or good tone color, in the soloist parts). The overall feeling of this recording is one of icy silvery clarity without intimate warmth and sometimes almost amateurish solo singing (this is because Gardiner rotates the solos from among several members of the choir). Gardiner assigns some entire choral movements to soloists and tries for textural variety within movements by varying the forces. After the initial chords and orchestral fugal introduction the opening Kyrie begins with a VOCAL QUARTET and only then evolves into a full chorus, thus adding cumulative weight without an escalation of volume alone, as is we generally come to expect and as is routinely done. He tries for further variety by using both female mezzos and male altos, rotating the solo turns among various members of his choir, and fortifying the more thickly-orchestrated concluding sections (Sanctus, Osanna and Dona nobis pacem) with additional voices, strings, oboes and flutes. This performance although having many beautiful parts is COMPLETELY LACKING IN SPIRITUAL GREATNESS. So what is the b minor mass without spiritual grandeur? I really don't know and cannot understand how anyone still thinks this is the benchmark performance. Buy it for the choral singing with period instruments.
The situation concerning the existing recordings of Bach's B Minor Mass is according to me as follows:

Gardiner (ARCHIV): Period instruments version: Choral singing glorious and stunning soloists of much lesser quality and overall feeling very icy, cold and completely lacking in spirituality.
Read more ›
6 Comments 45 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Never performed in Bach's lifetime the Mass in B minor is perhaps one of the greatest musical works ever written, indeed Bach never had at his disposal the number and quality of musicians needed to perform this work. Full of marvellous harmony and melody, its musical scope and dimension are hugh. If Bach himself was able to view this performance I believe he would pronounce himself to be well satisfied.
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