- Performer: Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Peter Schreier, Robert Kerns
- Orchestra: Vienna Singverein, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
- Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
- Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
- Audio CD (12 Dec. 1994)
- SPARS Code: ADD
- Number of Discs: 2
- Label: Doubles
- ASIN: B000001GLE
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,590 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Bach: Mass in B minor
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, 9 May 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
The sound is a little ploggy and leaden but not damagingly so; Karajan's smoothness and homogeneity of sound has been labelled "soupy" by many but the lump is leavened by the beauty of so many famous instrumental and vocal star soloists, such as flautist James Galway, oboist Heinrich Kärcher, violinist Thomas Brandis and the gorgeous paring of soprano the ethereal Gundula Janowitz and the rich mezzo of Christa Ludwig.
In fact the greatest weakness here is in the four choruses derived from the Vienna Singverein. At times they are their usual impressive selves but there are too many moments here where they are sloppy, out of tune, and even tentative -such as in the very opening chorus where for some reason they sound like an under-rehearsed amateur choir afraid to sing out in case their mistakes become more audible. Perhaps Karajan asked both them and the orchestra to tamp down the tension but the effect is disconcertingly under-cooked.Read more ›
What I love most about this performance is the pacing - from the very opening we know we are embarking on a huge musical journey, very apt for a work that has often been hailed as one of the creative monuments of Western civilisation. Karajan is uninhibited - if he wants loud, he gets it, and he always contrasts the peaks with wonderfully intimate and heart-rending soft passages. His focus is consuming, his intent obvious, and his vision is clear: none of the wishy-washy, introvert playing as we so often hear these days - he puts the emotion heart-on-sleeve and Bach can really take this approach. It works!
An integral and, indeed, additional delight, is the glorious voice of Schwarzkopk - again, that wonderful old style of directly converying the music from the heart.
A truly wonderful testament to a time gone by - and one that will endure.
As a professional musician, I learned my craft from this record, sight-reading, the joy of following an orchestral score, singing in with all the vocal lines and so on. Even as a youngster, I was in awe of it.
And why was this possible? Because it gives every word and phrase its full weight orchestral and chorally. The tempi are slow and reverent - e.g., the "Gloria," almost a feeling of 3/4 rather than 3/8 (admittedly, written in this), the "Confiteor unum Baptisma" (from the Credo section) with its massy walking bass, the "Laudamus Te" where every note of the treacherous violin part is clearly articulated.
By contrast, modern recordings give us a galloped "Gloria," a running "Confiteor," and a "Laudamus Te" with the violin slithering about all over the place. Frankly, modern tempi are too fast.
So if this recording errs on the slow side, it keeps its majesty and reverence. The quiet bits are still too quiet and no amount of remastering will help that.
And the soloists are pure legend. Schwartzkopf with controlled sweetness, Hoffgen the embodiment of capability and expressiveness, Gedda shining with a pale golden lustre, and Heinz the bass athletic and tuneful.
So if there is music in Heaven, this could be it.
Some considerations - this is an old recording ('fifties). The voices are feeble throughout and heavy on the vibrato. As for pace - what pace, pray? Karajan is either a stickler for metronomic accuracy (he isn't... and yes, my Wittner is ticking away nicely) or chronically over-indulgent, luxuriating in his warm blanket of sound. To be (brutally) honest, this sounds like a collection of geriatrics under the baton of someone who thinks they are doing awfully well. He must know best, as must the soloists listed on the front of the CD - they MUST be good. Well, Ms Schwarzkopf and Ferrier, if this is your best I am amazed you made it past your local Choral Society.
If you prefer historic recordings (and are in the market for Testament releases of "The Ring" and suchlike) by all means buy it. If you prefer your music to have the benefits of digital technology, yet be performed on period instruments AND have a pace beyond that of a part-time asthmatic Andean llama herder, go for Gardiner. For reference, there is a difference of nearly three minutes in the opening Kyrie alone (comparisons on youtube).
They say this "classic" recording brings one closer to heaven. I am sure they are right. Play it on the day you retire and you'll find yourself winging your way to St Peter by the time Karajan's painful "Agnus Dei" draws to a close.
On the plus side, the two CDs make very tasteful wine coasters.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Surprising Von Karajan for those more familiar with his later DGG Beethoven cycles although he was known for Bach in the '30s apparently. Read morePublished on 18 Feb. 2014 by memepool
A very interesting recording in which Karajan successfully conducts some very well established artists to perform work by 'the one and only'...Published on 14 July 2011 by kenni
I found this recording disappointing and regret buying it.
The soloists are very good but the choir sound is poor. Read more
This recording is splendid. The soundstaging is impressive, the music itself overwhelming and pleasingly packaged with detailed notes. ExcellentPublished on 30 April 2010 by P. Davis