Js Bach: Mass In B Minor, Bwv 232 [DVD]
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Recorded in 2000 at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig where the composer worked as Cantor for 25 years, this performance of Bach's Mass in B minor is a commemorative concert marking the 250th anniversary of his birthday. The conductor here, Georg Christoph Biller, was himself Cantor in 2000, while most members of the ensemble have strong links with the Bach tradition. Hence, this is a faithfully authentic, if orthodox rendering of the work. The Mass itself, however--composed in 1748-9, a year or so before he died--is somewhat unorthodox. To begin with it's a Latin mass, itself an odd choice for a protestant Cantor, and even so does not follow the conventions of a Catholic mass, split as it is into four rather than five parts. Using the full range of his compositional skills, it seems that what the ailing Bach intended here was church music that transcended the bounds of creed, a glorious musical valediction that soars aloft into the cathedral rafters and beyond. Certainly, this is the feeling evoked in the performances of English soprano Ruth Holton, among others. The power of the performances is poignantly contrasted with visual extracts of Bach's original score, his enfeebled handwriting indicative of his failing health. Yet the Mass in B minor has succeeded in achieving immortality and universality--a fine last testament from a composer who seems to have more resonance with contemporary audiences than most of his classical descendants.
On the DVD: The aspect ratio is 16:9. There are various subtitles but no extra features. --David Stubbs