Bach — B minor Mass (Double-header)


1) Performance of 2011 at Abbaye de Fontfroide, Narbonne, France; conducted by Jordi Savall. Rating 5 stars.

2) Performance of 2012 at Royal Albert Hall, London; conducted by Harry Bicket. Rating 5 stars.

* * * * *

In the B-B-M (Bach-Beethoven-Mozart) Pantheon, where those three are in a class by themselves, the Bach B minor Mass ranks at or close to the top. Perhaps the St. Matthew Passion is more moving, while the B minor Mass is more stirring, but both are magnificent. Here are two stellar performances of the Mass (on YouTube) that should please anyone. Some minor idiosyncratic differences in tempo and dynamics, but both are satisfying. The pictures are from Savall’s performance.

Jordi Savall is perhaps the preeminent interpreter of early and medieval music. This 18th-cemtury work is about 400 years later than his usual repertoire, but he certainly doesn’t seem out of his element; and the setting at Fontfroide Abbey is extremely fitting and impressive.

In the B minor Mass there are three arias for alto: Qui sedes at dexteram Patris, Et in unum Deum (duet with soprano), and Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi. Both these performances use countertenors instead of altos for those arias — something I’ve never heard in a live performance, but they do a fine job here. They are Pascal Bertin in the French performance and Iestyn Davies in the British.

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Iestyn Davies

For lovers of the B minor Mass, try them both! For novices, try the Savall. But both are 5-star. Dona nobis pacem.

Thomas Lemann





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