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Bach: Epiphany Mass /Gabrieli Consort & Players * McCreesh
German liturgy Traditional, Johann Sebastian Bach, German chorale Traditional
Bach: Epiphany Mass /Gabrieli Consort & Players * McCreesh
Genres: Special Interest, Soundtracks, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (28) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (22) - Disc #2

It seems obvious that Bach's sacred music and organ works were written for church services, yet we listen to them almost exclusively as disembodied concert pieces. Luckily, Paul McCreesh makes a specialty of remedying thi...  more »

     
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Amazon.com essential recording
It seems obvious that Bach's sacred music and organ works were written for church services, yet we listen to them almost exclusively as disembodied concert pieces. Luckily, Paul McCreesh makes a specialty of remedying this; here, for the first time on any commercial recording, he's placed Bach's music into the order of service (in this case, for the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day) from Bach's own church in Leipzig. For that reason alone, this is an important release; as usual with these performers, it's thrilling music-making as well. McCreesh uses very small forces in the vocal works--usually one singer per part and never more than two--yet the performance never feels underpowered. Quite the contrary: the opening chorus of cantata no. 180, for example, gets a good-humored, jaunty swing; the Kyrie of the Missa builds from gentle grace into magnificence, while the Gloria sounds deliriously joyful (with ferocious horn playing). What's more, listeners familiar with these works may hear a lot of instrumental detail that's usually obscured by a larger choir. The singers acquit themselves well in the "choruses"; while countertenor Angus Davidson doesn't sound quite up to the breathless "Quoniam" in the Missa, the other soloists are very good indeed, particularly the nimble tenor Charles Daniels. It's a pleasure to hear Bach's organ music brought together with his cantatas, and the two organists even improvise (as Bach did) brief flourishes between each line of the hymns. Which brings us to the performance's one flaw: the congregational hymn-singing, so exciting on this group's Praetorius recording, can get a bit tedious here. Don't let that put you off, though (CD players have "skip" buttons, after all)--even by McCreesh's formidable standards, this is one fabulous record. --Matthew Westphal
 

CD Reviews

Remarkable
hcf | 12/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Paul McCreesh is a master of reconstruction: he takes discrete, sometimes well-familiar, pieces and places them in the context of church liturgy. This endeavor requires formidable research, both into the performing practices of the period from which the music came, and into the devotional practices that coexisted with the music. McCreesh' reconstructions of Venetian services, masses by Praetorius and Morales, and now this Epiphany mass have been praised by critics of all hues, including those who are generally suspicious of the period performance scholarship. This uniform acceptance speaks volumes for the merits of McCreesh' approach to musical reconstructions. As a backbone for the Epiphany service on these two discs, McCreesh uses the vocal music from Missa Brevis in F major and cantatas "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen" and "Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele," as well as the organ music from Toccata in B flat minor and preludes from several cantatas. These pieces are interpolated with congregational singing of hymns, recitations of prayers, and even a sermon chanted in German at the end of the first disc! If you don't want to feel like you're attending a church service every time you pick up this set, you can skip the devotional interpolations. You will still get more than enough for your money. Both discs are filled to the brink: CD1 is 80 min., CD2 is 79:59 min.! This release features a celebrated organist James O'Donnell and a number of world-class singers such as Charles Daniels, Ann Monoyos and Peter Harvey. As the editorial review mentions, the choral forces are very lean and elegant. The music really breathes under their light touch. Especially thrilling are the two sections sung one-voice-per-part: Sanctus in D major from BWV 238 and the opening chorus from BWV 180. gkolomietz@yahoo.com"
Bach Epiphany Mass
hcf | 03/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I read the review of this 2 CD work in the New York Times, and thought my husband might appreciate it. He thought he died and went to heaven when he heard it. Even though the litergy of the mass is in German, he faithfully followed the chanting on the CD with the German words in the pamphlet provided (my husband does not speak German). Except for the Bible readings in German, all the music is in Latin as in Bach's time. Even I, with no Catholic tradition, truly appreciate listening to the lovely hymns; and I do not find the German Bible readings disconcerting because they are done in chanting with hymns interspersed. A true masterpiece!"