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Customer Review

on 23 May 2013
There are many fine moments in this performance, but the total effect is overly mannered. There are many unduly grave moments in what is for the most part a self-conscious idiosyncratic interpretation. Concerning the conducting, I had the feeling of someone who studies the score a bit, gets an idea that seems good, and then goes about putting it into effect without very much in depth thinking or exploration or any real full absorption in the music of this great work, and who doesn't have the spirit of the music in his total being. This mass, which it really isn't (more like an extended Cantata/ small Opera)is performed like a Passion Oratorio here. This is a possibility, but one which I think is incorrect, from many points of view. The instrumental playing is generally fine and there are some soloists parts that are very well done, but the sudden shifts in tempo are daunting to say the least. When the tempo suddenly slows down markedly it has the effect of a LP disc which starts to slow down because of mechanical failure creating a really very laughable effect indeed. The engineered sound is excellent, very clean, clear and transparent; and the singing of the choir is very fine. Several choruses are taken at very fast tempi making for a lack of a feeling of sincere faith, and there are odd string articulations as well as a few strange vocal articulations. ClassicsToday lists this recording as a reference recording. I don't agree at all. Some people have pointed out that this interpretation is really a sincere and deeply felt reading - I say it seems to me superficial, an attempt to create an effect of sincerity without there really being any true depth of feeling. There is no numinous presence at all. Others have said that it is a great ensemble performance with no real super stars, unknown soloists, for the most part who are in keeping with the overall fabric of the singing. I say the orchestral decisions taken by Henglebrock override this effect greatly, a pity! It will definitely have you sit up and take notice of what is happening with and in the music but generally in my opinion the startling effects of tempi and volume etc. work to the deteriment of the whole and to the detriment of the genius of Bach himself. I would suggest you listen to this interpretation before you buy it, because it is a very personal interpretation indeed, which may not sit well with what you think about this work or know this piece to be. Like all great works this work is more than the sum of its parts, and although there are very good parts here the interpretation is uninspired as a total interpretation. There are as the booklet notes say many layers of meaning in the work, Hengelbrock has chosen to emphasize a few in my opinion in a mannered and superficial way. See my review of the Gardiner version for a summary of the available works and the ones I think that are truly great performances.Bach: Mass in B minor
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