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Bach: Mass in B minor Original recording remastered

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Bach, J.S.: Mass in B minor (2 CD's)
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, 13 Mar 2000
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Product details

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (13 Mar. 2000)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00003ZA27
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,680 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Product description

KARAJAN HERBERT VON / BERLIN P

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a good recording of the B minor mass. The sound of the instruments of the orchestra is clear and crisp. Here are some of the plus points, a top orchestra, a legendary conductor, and great soloists including such as: Gundula Janowitz and Christa Ludwig. A formula for success.
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Mindblowing, gobsmacking-brilliant!
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Format: Audio CD
This recording seems to polarise reviewers and some reviews are absurdly extreme in both directions of loving and loathing. It seems to me that we must first recognise that this recording cannot evince much Period influence because there was hardly any to be had in the early 70's and thus to complain about its absence is otiose. Secondly, the tempi here are hardly any more marmoreal than the famous Klemperer recording idolised by so many; I grant that the opening beat does seem abnormally leaden but if you stick with it you see how carefully Karajan crafts the building of tension and is deliberately signalling a mighty, reverential approach to this monumental work. Nevertheless, this music is also remarkably joyful in character for a solemn Mass and I equally accept that Karajan overdoes the reverence.

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.
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Johann Sebastian Bach was a Lutheran, so it is unusual that he should have composed a musical setting of the complete Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Latin Mass. Part of the work was written in 1733 in the hope of obtaining the position of court composer to Augustus III, the Catholic Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, but during the 1740s, towards the end of his life, Bach expanded the work into a complete setting of the Mass. It appears to have been completed in 1749, the year before his death, and the entire work was never performed in his lifetime. (Indeed, the first recorded public performance of the complete work took place more than a century later, in 1859).

Despite its neglect in the first century of its existence (and its comparative neglect in some of the following decades) the Mass in B minor is today a core part of the classical repertoire. It is a lengthy work; the version on these two CDs lasts for over two hours. (By comparison the longest symphony performed today, Havergal Brian’s “Gothic”, normally lasts for around one hour fifty minutes). It is a “cantata mass” in which each of the sections of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei) is divided into separate movements, either a chorus, a duet or a solo. The advantage of this device is that it allows the composer to tailor his music to fit the meaning and the religious significance of the words. For example, in the Credo the sombre, deeply solemn "Crucifixus" is immediately followed by the triumphant “Et resurrexit”.
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It's interesting to go back and here Karajan's big band Bach, but what ever you think about his interpretations the one thing that really annoys are the sudden jolts in tempo that you wonder whether come about about through a poor recording stitch!
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