Johann Sebastian Bach
Mass in B minor
Hannah Morrison, soprano; Esther Brazil: mezzosoprano; Meg Bragle: alto; Kate Symonds-Joy: alto; Peter Davoren: tenor; Alex Ashworth: bass; David Shipley: bass
English Baroque Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
The Mass in B minor is one of Bach’s most stunning compositions not only because it was unusual for a Lutheran composer to write this kind of Mass in Latin, but also for the composition itself. The Mass collects vocal music that Bach had composed throughout his career and which was properly revised, alongside with some sections composed in the last years of his life, as Credo, Osanna and Dona nobis pacem.
Among the first pieces to be composed, there was for sure the Crucifixus, which Bach composed in 1714 for a cantata, and then Kyrie and Gloria, which he wrote in the hope of obtaining a title at the court Kapelle in Dresden in 1733 (at that time Bach’s situation in Leipzig was troublesome) or for the consecration of the Catholic Hofkirche in Dresden, planned for the late 1740s and then postponed. The Mass was never performed in its entirety during Bach’s lifetime.
This Mass was performed in St Luke in London and is the second recording for conductor John Eliot Gardiner (the first was released in the Eighties) but I have to say that, even if it is a pleasure to listen to both of them, I have found little difference between the newer and the older one. Of course, many years of experience allowed the Mass to acquire much more depth and unity in comparison to the previous one. You may appreciate especially the fluency of the music, the creation of contrasts and harmonies and, even if the soloists are not exceptional, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Orchestra sing and play with transport, surrounding Bach’s Mass with an appropriate solemnity. This can be considered a contemplative recording and its purpose is evidently to show us something high and sublime.