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Bach: Mass in B minor

4.3 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Bach, J.S.: Mass In B Minor BWV 232
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Audio CD, February 10, 1986
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Editorial Reviews

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One of the most frequently mentioned "favorite" works of Bach, the B Minor Mass is not really a functional liturgical work, but an assemblage of movements written over a period of many years. Its grand scale is certainly awesome, but its musical and spiritual unity is more remarkable, considering its origin and the fact that it contains several different compositional styles--not to mention some of Bach's most profound and beautiful music. Performing this work and preserving a sense of its grand design while bringing out the considerable musical details is a challenge that most choirs, orchestras, and conductors are not up to. Almost by consensus, however, John Eliot Gardiner's version is the most successful--and it is indeed a phenomenal recording--at once sumptuous and penetrating, with gorgeous choral and solo singing, and spacious, vibrant sound. --David Vernier
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Product Details

  • Performer: Nancy Argenta, Michael Chance, Mary Nichols, Wynford Evans, Howard Milner
  • Orchestra: The English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir
  • Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (February 10, 1986)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Archiv
  • ASIN: B0000057CN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,473 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 27, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Gardiner has recently gone out of favor among some followers of period instrument bands, maybe because of his famous tyrannical temperament. More than a few critics were happy when the recording project of his laudable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage was cut by DG. That's ok. But the fact is, more than a decade later, Gardiner's recordings of Bach's major sacred works are still at the top of the pile, and the Mass in B minor may be the most evident example.
Despite some nice later recordings, particularly Hickox's and Herreweghe's, Gardiner's still stands out as the more passionately committed one. Being a predominantly choral work, the Mass in B minor benefits immensely from the extraordinary singing of Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir. And Gardiner's option of using solo voices in some choral parts, as in the first Kyrie, the Et in terra pax and the Crucifixus, add a more intimate dimension which nicely contrasts with the more extrovert passages, where Gardiner shines as usual, with brilliant trumpets and fervourous singing.
Of course, the Mass has also some extraordinary solo pieces, and Gardiner's soloists excel, as the playing of the English Baroque Soloists does. But it's the choirs that really make the difference. And here Gardiner's control of dynamics, rhythm and articulation is unsurpassed. He can draw the most vibrant singing from his choir without making it sound forced, without losing textural clarity.
I tried to look for other recordings of this masterpiece. Harnoncourt disappointed, Brüggen was only ok, Parrott was intriguing, Hickox was excelent, Herreweghe was a joy. But I always find myself going back to the same Gardiner recording over and over again.
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Format: Audio CD
The Choral singing is stunning and glorious, unfortunately the soloists are not at the same level (sometimes unbelievably the quality is without real feeling or technical perfection or good tone color, in the soloist parts). The overall feeling of this recording is one of icy silvery clarity without intimate warmth and sometimes almost amateurish solo singing. Buy it for the choral singing with period instruments.
The situation concerning the existing recordings of Bach's B Minor Mass is according to me as follows:
Gardiner (ARCHIV): Period instruments version: Choral singing glorious and stunning soloists of much lesser quality and overall feeling very icy and cold.
Herreweghe (HARMONIA MUNDI): Period instrument version. Choral singing is sometimes weak and without great emotional envolvement. Solo singing often of exceptional intense feeling, especially the duet 'Et in unum dominum' (Zomer /Scholl) and the Agnes Dei (Scholl). Often bright brisk tempi,counterpuntal lines clearly demarcated although the back and forth dynamics between the counterpuntal lines it not well done. The overall feeling of this recording is of a warm meditative almost monastic medieval quality, which is not appropriate in my opinion to this great late Baroque work, but which is all the same very pleasing and beautiful and will put you in a state of contemplative rest,an example of how great this Bach work is that it can support so many various interpretations. Buy it for the solo singing.
Klemperer (EMI): Modern instruments. Very slow tempi, often grave and oftentimes too solemn, interpretated as a liturgical work, that is as a mass, which it really is not. (The work as a whole was never labeled as a Mass by Bach, only the earlier Kyrie and Gloria parts were.
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Format: Audio CD
I own three different versions of Bach's "Mass in B Minor," and have listened to several others. This is without doubt the best version of this sacred masterpiece I've ever heard! The English Baroque Soloists, under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner, play brilliantly on period instruments, and The Monteverdi Choir and vocal soloists sing with tremendous warmth, freshness and vitality. The sound quality, as is usual for the Deutsche Grammophon label, is outstanding.

Perhaps this version's strongest attribute is the wonderful spiritual quality with which it is played and sung, a reverence for the sacred which shines through in every measure. It makes this CD set a very special listening experience for me, and I'm sure it will do the same for any lover of Bach's music.
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I love this piece of music, so I decided to buy this CD, my second version of the Bach mass. I am not sorry I bought it, but like others have said, I am beginning to think that there is no "perfect" recording of this masterpiece. There are beautiful aspects to this recording: crystal clear sound quality, crisp but lush strings, lively tempos. The energy behind "Cum Sancto" and "Gloria in Excelcis" is nothing short of breathtaking. But... there is missing pathos in the first Kyrie. The "Christe" is not plaintive enough. I guess no recording will ever do justice to Bach's incredible accomplishment. His achievement is as much in the mind as it is in the sound of the performers. If you don't own a recording of the Bach Bm, by God buy one right away! This one or any other! But if you are trying to decide which one to buy, this one is good for lovers of clear sound, energy, and vitality. More melancholic, introspective, and angst-filled listeners should turn to other recordings.
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