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Bach: Mass in B Minor Import, Box set

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Box set, March 10, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

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This recording is, quite frankly, a marvel. In the opening bars of the Kyrie, where tradition dictates a powerful, agonized cry for mercy, Philippe Herreweghe offers a gentle, awestruck plea that took this listener's breath away. Extroverted movements like the Gloria, Et resurrexit, and Sanctus lack nothing in excitement; Qui tollis and Dona nobis pacem feel like fervent prayers. Herreweghe's luminous Collegium Vocale and skillful, sensitive instrumentalists make every gesture, large and small, seem exactly right. The soloists have attractive voices that blend with the period instruments and each other; while each is exquisite, tenor Christoph Prégardien and alto Andreas Scholl are magnificent. Underlying the entire performance is a sense of contemplative wonder that suits this deeply religious music perfectly. -- Matthew Westphal
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Product Details

  • Performer: Veronique Gens, Peter Kooy, Christoph Pregardien, Andreas Scholl
  • Orchestra: Collegium Vocale
  • Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (March 10, 1998)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import, Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi (France)
  • ASIN: B000005Z2W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,870 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Philippe Herreweghe will gain many fans with this recording. I bought it because I had worn out my Gardner recording. Talk about a revelation! Someone else already reviewed the differences in the opening Kyrie, so I won't retread that ground. Suffice it to say that EVERY chorus, aria, and duet is handled deftly but never "nose in the air" bombastic. The Crucifixus, with it's chromatically descending ostinato, transfixed an entire room full of people when I played it recently at our "Music Night". We have them once a month, rotating who chooses the program. I have been asked to include more of Herreweghe's recording of Bach's Mass in B Minor simply on the merits of the Crucifixus. I was deeply moved also by the wonderful "Credo Patrem Omnipotentem Factorum Coeli et Terrae". This recording is so solid, that when the Collegium Vocale resolve their chords at the end of each movement, you can hear the harmonic overtones generated by their purity of pitch. I have never heard such sublime singing. They also (and this is a tough one for most choirs) have their diction so unified that it is literally impossible to tell how many voices are singing - only that they're all singing perfectly together. Get this CD. You will not regret it. Five stars is not enough, but I wasn't given the choice to award more. Bravo, M. Herreweghe!
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Format: Audio CD
It is true that the Mass in B-Minor has rather been "taken out of the church." Doubtless, it is a great work that requires virtuosity of all it's performers, but therefore, it is easy for a recording of the Mass in B-Minor to lose it sacred feel. Take, for instance, the recording of the Mass by John Elliot Gardiner: a fine recording, but the oversized, vibrato heavy chorus and bombastic exectution might leave you less then awed.
Leave it to Philippe Herreweghe and his fine choir, instrumentalists, and soloists to surpass any recording of this work made. When Bach composed this mass near the end of his life (about 1748), he recycled his best works from his long, illustrious career. Some of these works went as far back as 1714. These recycled works were "tweaked" more or less for improvements, and so most of the Mass in B minor is actually Bach's compendium of what he thought were the highlights of his career.
And what better way to show-off Bach's pinnacle work than with Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale! Never using more than 5 singers per part, the choir is uniform. It is a large-sounding choir and their diction is clear as a bell and each line can be heard. The "Patrem omnipotentem factorem coeli et terrae," (Bach's reworked version of cantata #171) is an exciting rendition, as are the other choruses.
The sopranos and altos (not including the male altos) in the Collegium Vocale are especially boyish sounding, a good quality for a Bach choral work, sounding closer to what Bach had in mind for his own boy choir in St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. Their voices are not vibrato-heavy, making the sound of the choir more appealingly antique and smooth.
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Format: Audio CD
I have several recordings of the Bach b-minor mass (Gardiner, Shaw, Harnoncourt and Herreweghe). Herreweghe's recording is the favorite hands-down. His artistic choices are excellent; The orchestra and chorus of Collegium Vocale Gent offer a broad and intense palette for Herreweghe's brush. This small chamber orchestra balances the voices beautifully and more succesfully than a large orchestra (Shaw). What is sacrificed in instrumental blending is more than compensated by the pronounced character of each instrument and the resulting dramatic effect. Rather than use brute force in tutti sections, Herreweghe offers subtly of line, emphasizing the genius of Bach's counterpoint with clarity. At times, an almost-spartan string section acts as a haunting backdrop for the soloists and chorus (best example 'Agnus Dei'). This is not to say that instrumental force is lacking; plenty punches through in the 'Gloria' and 'Et Ressurexit' where required, but the voice reigns supreme.

Chorus texture blends beautifully, at times sounding like powerful 4 and 5 part solo work rather than an ensemble; they lend enough force to carry through the full orchestra. Soloists are remarkable, delivering the text clearly and audibly throughout with solid intonation. I applaud the maestro's choices of sopranos Johannette Zomer & Véronique Gens (beautiful work in the 'Christe Eleison') and countertenor Andreas Scholl rather than the more common choice of a female alto; Sorry ladies, but the b-minor demands the purity of a countertenor. Scholl's voice is a perfect pairing to the oboe d'amore in 'Qui sedes ad dexteram patris' and the plaintive organ in 'Angus Dei'. Tempi are a bit fast throughout compared to other recordings but used to good effect.
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Format: Audio CD
Caveat: I am only 18 years old and have only been singing/listening to choral music seriously for 3 or 4 years.

Do yourself a favor and get this exquisite recording. There is intense emotion, perfect diction, light production, excellent dynamic contrast, BEAUTIFUL soloists and just about anything else imaginable in this recording. The straight tone, evened-out vibrato sound is to die for.

Some of the most beautiful and moving solo pieces are Scholl's "Agnus Dei", Pregardien and the soprano (forgot her name)'s "Domine Deus", Scholl and the soprano's "Et in Unum Dominum" and Kooy's "Et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum". I am not a big fan of Muller-Brachman's voice, but his interpretation of "Quoniam Tu Solus Sanctus Dominus" is well done. Ah, and the "Christe Eleison" is absolutely gorgeous, too. Really, there aren't any outright bad solo tracks. Muller-Brachman's "Quoniam" is clearly the worst, and the only one I won't listen to at any given moment.

The "Qui Tollis" movement is possibly the best on the CD. You can sense the long, legato lines that Herreweghe is going for, as if the singers are pulling you along for the ride with their breath connection. The trumpets are absolutely spectacular, especially in the "Cum Sancto Spiritu" movement. If you hear that piece, and don't want to fly out of your chair, something is horribly wrong. There is something distinctively divine about this music, and for me, it is best felt on movements like the "Cum Sancto Spiritu", "Gloria in excelsis deo", "Sanctus", "Ex Expecto" and "Et Resurexit"... The ones with lots of trumpet. However, the "Crucifixus" and "Et Incarnatus est" are nearly as powerful, just in a more subdued way.
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