- Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
- Audio CD (9 May 2005)
- SPARS Code: ADD
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Original recording remastered
- Label: EMI
- ASIN: B0007Z0Y86
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,723 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Bach: Mass in B Minor Original recording remastered
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
This recording is from the early 1950s in mono sound. For me this is not normally a drawback. Much of the solo writing is so naturally balanced, you really appreciate Bach's instrumental and solo vocal writing. However, I do find the massed orchestral and vocal sounds on this recording a bit muddy.
I think that this recording is a very fine one. All four soloists are in fine voice. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf had a marvellous voice and an intelligent way with it. On this recording, she did not have the slightly arched and mewing sound that she later developed. I find her a much more positive and expressive artist that Gundula Janowitz on Karajan's later recording. I also love Nicolai Gedda's rendition of the tenor solos. He was in his late 20s at the time and had a lovely easily produced lyrical voice at the time - I have never heard the tenor solos sung better than on this recording. The other two soloists, Martha Hoffgen and Heinz Rehfuss both sing excellently. In all departments, I prefer the soloists on this recording to the ones Karajan used in the 1970s.
The instrumentalists are all fine as well. I think they were all section leaders in the Philharmonia Orchestra in the 1950s (Dennis Brain - horn, Manoug Parikian - violin, Sydney Sutcliffe - oboe and Gareth Morris - flute) and I presume that this is the orchestra on this recording even though it does not appear to be stated on the sleeve notes. They play with more individuality and personality than their later counterparts in the 1970s.
The choir on this recording is shown as the Chorus of the Society of the Friends of Music, Vienna.Read more ›
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 ›
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
It's Bach, so apparently we must all "approach the altar" with reverence.
Some considerations - this is an old recording ('fifties). Read more
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