Johann Sebastian Bach
Lutheran Masses. Vol. 1 & 2
Hana Blažìková, soprano; Joanne Lunn, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor, Gerd Türk, tenor, Peter Kooij, bass
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor
This double disc set introduces the listener to the Lutheran Masses written by Johann Sebastian Bach in the years when he was Thomaskantor at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig and that almost exhausted his scarce Latin text production. Bach, in fact, preferred German texts for his sacred music and actually he composed hundreds of works in this language.
The Lutheran Mass differs from the Catholic one because it puts in music only the first two parts of the Ordinary – that is, Kyrie and Sanctus.
The album Lutheran Masses includes the Masses with the catalogue number BWV 233-236, four Sanctus (BWV 237-238 and BWV 240-241), Kyrie BWV 242 and Mass in A minor by Peranda. It is likely that some of these compositions were not written to be performed in Leipzig and had been commissioned from outside, but we do not possess sufficient information in this regard, while it is established that some of them re-use cantatas from the early years in Leipzig: so, for example, the Mass BWV 235 makes use of the cantata Es wartet alles auf dich BWV 187 (1726) and the Mass BWV 236 resumes the cantatas BWV 17, 79 and 179 (composed in the years 1723-6). At least two Sanctus are arrangements from pieces of other composers, both unknown as that of BWV 240, or known, as for BWV 241, which arranges the Missa superba of Johann Kaspar Kerll, composer and organist active between Austria and Germany. Kyrie BWV 242 is a revision of a pre-existing music by the Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante.
At the end of the second album, you will find the Mass in A minor by Marco Giuseppe Peranda, found among the Bach autographs, copied by his hand. Peranda was an Italian composer who lived few decades before Bach (1625-1675) to the Dresden court and who was primarily engaged in the field of sacred music. His influence on music of Protestant lands beyond the Alps lasted at least until the next century.
I think the recording of the Collegium Japan conducted by Masaaki Suzuki is excellent. Conductor and ensemble are able to arise solemn and religious atmosphere, not separated from the Baroque splendour which characterizes the Gloria of the Mass BWV 233 or the fugue on Cum Sancto Spiritu in the Mass BWV 235. I appreciated also the beautiful contrast created between the choral and the solo pieces (the soloists quintet is absolutely fine), especially in the just quoted BWV 235 and 236, where the interventions of the choir “surround” the arias. Also interesting is Peranda’s Mass, which allows you to become familiar with the style of this composer, so sensitive to the nuances of feelings and master of counterpoint.