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Bach - Mass in B minor / Argenta, Nichols, Chance, Stafford, Milner, W. Evans, Gardiner
Johann Sebastian Bach, John Eliot Gardiner, Nancy Argenta
Bach - Mass in B minor / Argenta, Nichols, Chance, Stafford, Milner, W. Evans, Gardiner
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2

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...  more »


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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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CD Reviews

Outstanding! A very special listening experience.
Mike Powers | Woolwich, ME USA | 05/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Still unsurpassed
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
My Opinion In Brief
Marcolorenzo | Italy | 09/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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.) The title Mass is a later 19th century publisher's addition since he saw that it was written to the words of the mass. This work is more like a sacred opera, a glorious final statement by Bach praising God and a synthesis of his whole life and of the many perceding periods of musical history. Janet Baker is excellent especially in the Agnes Dei, also the Benedictus is splendid. Buy it if you want a liturgical prayerful intrepretation
Jochum (EMI): Modern instruments.Choral singing splendid at or above the level of the Gardiner recording, all soloists are of exceptional quality, and sing with great warmth and feeling. There are moments when it makes your spine tingle. Performed by a man of great Christian faith and it shows in this interpretation. All things considered it is the best version available, if you can overlook the slightly fussy feeling (but ever so slightly) that the modern instruments create. Buy it if you want one almost perfect modern instrument version.
Rilling (HANNSLER): Modern instruments. It's a toss up between the Jochim version and this splendid version, which one to consider the best. Here the advantage over the Jochum version is that although it's a modern instrument version it is performed by a Bach expert who well knows the differences between a modern instrument version and a period performance and the instuments sound very much like period instruments at the right moments, at musically graphic points and like modern ones at the moments which require fuller tone color(how he did it I really don't know) The solists are a slight notch down compared with the Jochim version. The overall sound is clearer and more transparent than the Jochim version. Buy it if you want one almost perfect modern/period version, with minor flaws in the solo singing.
The Bach B minor Mass is probably the greatest work of music ever written by one of the greatest musicians of Western music and therefore no one version can do this masterpiece justice. It is extremely complex and difficult chorally and architecturally. Here however is on a Scale of 1 to 10 how I would rate the situation:
Jochum 9.7
Rilling 9.6
Herreweghe 9.2
Gardiner 9.0
Klemperer 8.8