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Bach: Mass in B minor (+Book)

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 May 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Naive Sa
  • ASIN: B001JPB9LE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,273 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Last year, the esteemed conductor Marc Minkowski joined Naïve for a long-term collaboration during which period he will be recording the music of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, among others. The first in this series of recordings featured the works of Georges Bizet performed on instruments of the period. It was a major international success, and was picked as an Editor's Choice in the Gramophone and a Music Choice in the BBC Music Magazine. Early in 1733 Augustus II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, died. Five months of mourning followed, during which all public music-making was temporarily suspended. Bach used the opportunity to work on the composition of a Missa, a portion of the liturgy sung in Latin and common to both the Lutheran and Roman Catholic rites. His aim was to dedicate the work to the new sovereign Augustus III, a Catholic, and by doing so to hope to improve his own standing. The Missa was first performed in 1733 during the festival of the Oath of Allegiance to Augustus III. It consisted of settings of the Kyrie and Gloria that now comprise the first part of the Mass in B Minor. At what point Bach decided to expand the Missa into a full-blown setting of the Catholic Mass is not known. Some researchers believe that the Symbolum Nicenum (or the Credo) was composed between 1742 and 1745, but others think it predates the Missa and was first heard in 1732. The remaining parts (Sanctus, Osanna, Benedictus and Agnus Dei et Dona nobis pacem) were all added in the late 1740s. The Mass in B Minor did not assume its final form until Bach's last years, perhaps by 1748. It may be that Bach wished the Mass in B Minor to be regarded as a monument of his skill, for it is a work based much upon his earlier music, which he adapted and refined to meet a sacred purpose. Personnel: Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, Marc Minkowski (conductor) Soloists: Lucy Crowe (soprano I), Joanne Lunn (soprano I), Julia Lezhneva (soprano II), Blandine Staskiewicz (soprano ll), Nathalie Stutzmann (alto I), Terry Wey (alto II), Colin Balzer (tenor I), Markus Brutscher (tenor II), Christian Immler (bass I), Luca Tittoto (bass II)

Review

(4 stars) Even in two-dimensional stereo the audible detail is striking...the best of the minimalist B minor Mass recordings. -- BBC Music Magazine, (George Pratt), September 2009

(4 stars) Often riveting...there's lovely colouring from brass and wind. The tiny forces bring extra clarity to Bach's polyphony. -- The Times, (Geoff Brown), June 27, 2009

(4 stars) Superb ensemble...there is drama and brilliance in the singing and playing...Highly collectable. -- The Sunday Times, (Hugh Canning), July 5, 2009

(5 stars) A celebration of the joy of music-making...Wonderful and highly recommended. -- The Guardian, (Tim Ashley), July 17, 2009

Minkowski chose his 10 international soloists with infinite care...sensitive direction of the sublime Musiciens du Louvre...many glorious moments. -- The Observer, (Stephen Pritchard), June 14, 2009

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Format: Audio CD
I have heard my share of "extra dozens of singers" performance of this music, and, no, to these ears the score doesn't gain from being sung by a few dozen more singers. On the contrary, bloated vocal forces often result in a less inflected, more homogenous quality in singing, unless the chorus is of the same calibre as Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir, of which few equals exist. Bach never once used the term "coro" in the manuscript to indicate the so-called "choral" movements, and one can only figure what that might have meant in terms of the forces JSB actually envisioned for this composition. Indeed, the mass in b was conceived firmly in the Baroque "spiritual concerto" tradition (since the times of Gabrieli's, Monteverdi and Schutz) which delights in various ways of combining solo voices or instruments to achieve changing textural or spatial effects.

Minkowski has realised all the above, and his interpretation is significantly more dramatic than most other minimalist performances on record. Apart from fabulous balances and textures, his interpretation paces through the movements so meticulously that it instills a strong sense of overall structure to music. This no doubt comes as a result of Minkowski's long experience as a conductor of baroque operas and dramatic works. Although lacking in an outward monumentality due to its relatively small performing forces, the present recording has struck me as among the most humane and luminously beautiful versions of Bach's masterpiece in vocal music.
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Format: Audio CD
Bach's B minor Mass speaks infinite truths in finite terms: it is, in a sense, an incarnation. This raises questions of performance styles. No answer can be absolutely perfect. The scope and intention of the work renders a perfect solution impossible. How can human terms express the inexpressible? Performance 'solutions' for this work are only ever provisional and approximate. You take your pick. To insist on a 'period' performance as alone 'correct' seems short-sighted, in the sense that the work is regarded merely as the product of a particular age; indeed a product of a particular place in time. However, a 'period' performance is a legitimate option. (But so too may be the approach of Klemperer, Vaughan-Williams or Celibidache. The only wholly unacceptable approach is to use the work egotistically, without humility: Gardiner?)

Minkowski is a sensitive and accomplished conductor. His response to the B minor Mass is in a period performance tradition but not in a period performance straight-jacket. His tempi and expressiveness respond intelligently (and religiously) to the truths that Bach at any point is expressing. Therefore the Kyrie is expansive, pleading; as are the Agnus Dei and Benedictus. While, for example, the Osanna and Confiteor go at boggling lick.

With a choir of (only) ten soloists clarity and dexterity are conspicuous virtues. But they also sing with weight and gravitas, achieved by intelligence rather than force of numbers. Time and again the singers create significant moments of powerful impact, tremendous yet intimate.

The orchestral contribution is a delight; beautiful, whether playing with delicate finesse or resplendent celebration.

A recoding more than fit to be placed high among the very finest efforts at an impossible project!

(It seems that the recorded level is lower than normal, at least I needed to turn the volume a good deal higher than my normal setting.)
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This is an unashamed minimalist performance, with soloists doubling up for the 'choruses'. It's cleverly thought out and nicely performed. The balance is usually surprisingly good, though orchestral detail was sometimes lacking (I listened on a Cyrus/B & W hi-fi which finds details if there are any). And every so often the effect is exhilarating. But with the bigger choruses - Kyrie, Sanctus - it's like listening to a poorly attended rehearsal. There just isn't any power. Now minimalists, and the early music lobby in general, will argue that we should be content with what Bach might have heard in performance. I think we should aim to squeeze the pips out of the score, and if that means adding a few dozen singers, all to the good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9493d4bc) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94c5c264) out of 5 stars Fresh, Exciting, OVPP 31 Mar. 2009
By R. Gerard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It seems as though Joshua Rifkin's theory that Bach performed his choral works with one voice per part (OVPP) has been cemented in standard repertoire. This release is likely to be ranked among historically informed, though not OVPP, recordings generally regarded as gold standards: Gardiner and Herreweghe.

What sets this set apart from the rest is not simply it's use of OVPP (indeed, it's been done before: the very first OVPP Bach recording was Rifkin's B-Minor Mass, followed by Andrew Parrott, then Cantus Colln), but because the singers in Minkowski's consort have the ability to sing as a unit and as soloists. The fatal flaw on many OVPP recordings (McCreesh's St. Matthew Passion included) is the tendency to use singers who function well only as a soloist or part of the ensemble. Minkowski has chosen well-known singers, yet pays close attention to how well they blend together as a unit, while as soloists, they express with the most hearfelt devotion and understanding the text they are singing.

This is Minkowski's first recording of Bach, and what a spectacular debut! He's proven himself a competent Handelian, brilliant conductor of Rameau, and I can only hope he offers more Bach in the near future (a new St. Matthew or St. John Passion perhaps?)

As for the conducting itself, Minkowski is not one who is known for moderate tempi. The tempi here are brisk, but for some reason they do not seem rushed. They seem exciting. Compare for instance the opening chorus of the "Gloria," and how differently Konrad Junghanel and Marc Minkowski bring out the colors at relatively fast speeds. Many might criticize Junghanel (an excellent conductor nonetheless) of rushing and making the chorus seem underpowered and anemic, while Minkowski's never loses its majesty, forward momentum, and almost dancelike quality.

Like in Herreweghe's recording, Minkowski's basso continuo has real PRESENCE. A must for any concerted work of Baroque repetoire, the basso continuo line must have presence and the performers must be able to be creative- to improvise their parts with impressive originality. Such efforts have been made in the astonishing opera recordings by Rene Jacobs, and one would wish for the same efforts to be applied to religious music- and Minkowski has done it. Minkowski plays with the cello/bass accompaniment in the continuo a bit to a achieve a greater sense of variety and drama within the choruses, for example, in the Dona Nobis and Pleni Sunt Coeli fugues.

One could not wish for better soloists, and this is indeed the key to a good OVPP record. Special mention goes to bass Christian Immler and Nathalie Stutzmann, whose Agnus Dei is one of the most stunning I've heard.

It is easily one of my new favorites in the Bach discography, and no serious collector of 'the father of modern music' should be without it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94f5db64) out of 5 stars A worthwhile addition to your collection of Bach 12 Feb. 2015
By Arthur Mortensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A great performance with minimal voicing and orchestration. Probably the tightest version I've ever head, yet it works as well as versions with thirty or more voices. In this, Minkowski uses one voice per part, which he claims (somewhere if not here) is a recommendation actually in the extant manuscripts.
12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94b104b0) out of 5 stars Bravo Minkowski...! 31 Mar. 2009
By dalmatian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The above review has said all I wanted to say...the most exciting and moving recording of Bach's eternal masterpiece I have heard in a long time!
11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x949513c0) out of 5 stars Best of the best 28 Dec. 2009
By L. Polgar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Don't even think about it: BUY THIS RECORDING TODAY! Truly amazing. The most beautiful music by Bach and a triumph for the music world.
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