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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works

Mass in B minor BWV 232 – Part 5: Agnus Dei

 

 

Agnus Dei of BMM

Bradley Lehman
wrote (March 14, 2004):
< It's the aria 'Agnus Dei' in the MBM and the 'Es ist vollbracht' in the SJP (BWV 245) that have musically seduced me. Which cantata has a moment of such rapturous tenderness ? >
Sometime be sure to listen to that Agnus Dei as recorded by Alfred Deller, May 1954. This was a filler at the end of their magnificent Vanguard album of cantatas BWV 170 and BWV 54. Eduard Melkus and Marie Leonhardt playing violins, Nikolaus Harnoncourt playing cello, Alfred Planiawsky playing bass, and Gustav Leonhardt playing organ and directing. As I've pointed out before, this is the first album that Leonhardt and Harnoncourt ever made using period instruments, and I think there should be some sort of 50th year celebration here in a few months.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 14, 2004):
An extremist list member commented:
>>As I've pointed out before, this is the first album that Leonhardt and Harnoncourt ever made using period instruments, and I think there should be some sort of 50th year celebration here in a few months.<<
What is missing here is that this seems to be, according to the extremist's comment earlier, the 1st recorded evidence of deliberately shortened [not in Bach's score] basso continuo accompaniment to a Bach 'secco' recitative. Perhaps this will be remembered as a day of infamy rather than of celebration for those who cherish Bach's scores.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 14, 2004):
[re the Deller/Leonhardt/Harnoncourt record of cantatas BWV 170 and BWV 54]
< What is missing here is that this seems to be, according to the extremist's comment earlier, the 1st recorded evidence of deliberately shortened [not in Bach's score] basso continuo accompaniment to a Bach 'secco' recitative. Perhaps this will be remembered as a day of infamy rather than of celebration for those who cherish Bach's scores. >
I find it a musically satisfying, indeed a remarkably moving, account of the music--all the way through. An outstanding record, and a milestone in the history of Bach recordings. That's why I care about it.

As for "extremists" favoring this recording, or remarking about its importance, I don't think it's about any form of extremism. Here is part of Nicholas Anderson's article about Gustav Leonhardt, in the Oxford Composer Companion: J S Bach (1999): "In 1954, with his Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble, he collaborated with the English countertenor Alfred Deller in a recording of Bach's Cantatas BWV 54 and BWV 170. This early essay in historically aware performance style--the ensemble included his wife Marie and Eduard Melkus (violins), Alice Hoffelner (viola), Nikolaus Harnoncourt (cello), and Michel Piguet (oboe)--may be justly considered an important torch-bearer in the new paths soon to be taken in Baroque interpretation."

If any here are inclined to remember this recording (if they have even heard it at all!) as a "day of infamy" rather than as a document of outstanding musicality, they are hereby invited to go do something else that gives them pleasure.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 14, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] 50 years from now, I wonder whose contribution to the appreciation of Bach's genius will be deemed the greater, that of Leonhardt and Harnoncourt, or that of the writer of the comments above?

Johan van Veen wrote (March 14, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] The author of those lines reminds me of a Dutch wannabee Bach expert who in the 80's sent a telegram to the Telefunken office and ordered them to stop the recordings of Bach cantatas by Harnoncourt & Leonhardt immediately, because the tempi were all completely wrong (meaning: too fast).

Nobody did take that individual seriously. We shouldn't take our own wannabee Bach expert seriously either. It is all a waste of time.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 15, 2004):
Nicholas Anderson, in the New Grove (Oxford University Press, 2003) also wrote the following about:

Hellmuth Rilling:
>>He [Hellmuth Rilling] made his London début as a conductor in 1972, and in that year began his complete recorded cycle of Bach’s sacred cantatas with the Frankfurter Kantorei, the Gächinger Kantorei and the Stuttgart Figuralchor. In articles, and in his concerts and recordings, he has questioned the historically informed approach to Bach performance, preferring a more traditional style of interpretation, which he believes both clarifies and strengthens the meaning of the music for the contemporary listener.<<

Karl Richter: (along with Hans Christoph Worbs)
>>…his [Karl Richter’s] primary interest was the music of J.S. Bach. Richter's interpretations of Bach's vocal works, many recorded between 1958 and 1980, were especially admired for their discipline, rhythmic tautness and expressive intensity. As player and conductor he made few concessions towards the growing interest in ‘historical’ performances. Partly because of declining health in the 1970s, he was unable to defend this position with his previous vigour and conviction. From among his many recordings, the earlier of his two versions of the St Matthew Passion (1958) and his survey of Bach's sacred cantatas over three decades deserve special mention.<<

Karl Ristenpart: (again with Hans Christoph Worbs)
>>In 1946 he [Karl Ristenpart] established the RIAS Chamber Orchestra with which he made many studio recordings, including the complete sacred and secular cantatas of Bach. In 1953 he moved to Saarbrücken where he directed the Saar Radio Chamber Orchestra which quickly gained a wide reputation. The stylistic authority, clarity of texture and rhythmic energy of his interpretations, which were mainly devoted to German Baroque music, won admiration in Europe and further afield. Among his recordings are suites and concertos by Telemann, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites.<<

[Where are these studio recordings of the complete Bach cantatas? Do these recordings still exist? What is holding them up from being recorded?]

Philippe Herreweghe:
>>Although he [Philippe Herreweghe] has been admired in performances and recordings embracing a wide repertory (including Weill and Schoenberg with the Ensemble Musique Oblique), his recordings of Bach and of Romantic choral works have received special acclaim.<<

[Nothing about his performance style!]

Reinhard Goebel:
>>Goebel’s attention to stylistic detail together with a rigorous technical discipline have given his ensemble a distinctive character. His preference for brisk tempos, particularly evident in his performances and recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, has given rise to controversy. His other recordings with Musica Antiqua Köln include concertos and orchestral suites by Bach and Telemann, vocal music of the Bach family and by Dresden court composers, notably Heinichen.<<

[‘brisk’ tempos can be interpreted as inordinately fast]

Ton Koopman:
>>As director of his [Ton Koopman’s] own choir and orchestra he has made many recordings, including the Bach Passions, choral works by Handel and Mozart and a complete survey of Bach’s cantatas. He has also recorded with René Jacobs, Jordi Savall and Hopkinson Smith. Among his many solo recordings are Bach’s Das wohltemperirte Clavier, harpsichord concertos and complete organ works, and the organ concertos of Händel. Koopman’s interpretations, both as a conductor and as a player, are characterized by a lively feeling for Baroque ornament, clear articulation and rhythmic vitality.<<

[The complete survey of Bach’s cantatas is already recorded!]

Marc Minkowski:
>>and [Marc Minkowski] has won widespread praise for his vigorously characterized performances.<<

[‘vigorously characterized performances’ – an interesting phrase!]

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < [‘brisk’ tempos can be interpreted as inordinately fast] >
It also be intepreted as brisk! In fact, it means brisk!!

Donald Satz wrote (March 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz writes: < Brisk tempos can be interpreted as inordinately fast. >
Here are definitions from an English language dictionary:

Brisk - quick and energetic
Inordinately - excessively

Clearly, "quick and energetic" does not equate to inordinately fast.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 15, 2004):
Don Satz correctly pointed out:
>>Here are definitions from an English language dictionary: Brisk - quick and energetic Inordinately - excessively
Clearly, "quick and energetic" does not equate to inordinately fast.<<
I was simply pointing out what may have been a very carefully chosen understatement by Nicholas Anderson who is so extremely circumspect that he does not even characterize Herreweghe’s performance style at all. Anderson’s obvious reluctance to describe in somewhat greater detail what sets one Bach conductor apart from another leaves the reader with only a quick summary of the highlights of a recording/performance career, but frequently lacks descriptive details that would help the reader understand better what truly distinguishes one Bach conductor from another or one type of Bach interpretation from another.

This is why I consider the interesting phrase “vigorously characterized performances” as just another one of Anderson’s extremely downplayed descriptions of a conductor’s performance style, one that is couched in such a way that it would not immediately be attacked by the musical performer defamation league.

Re: ‘brisk’ I own and have listened to some of Goebel’s Telemann interpretations (Tafelmusik, other concertos) with the MAK and have been personally disappointed with the fast tempi of some of my favorite movements. Having heard other performances of these works allows me to make a comparison. Something truly moving and beautiful has been removed from these works by using these very fast tempi. But this, of course, is only my own opinion and my preference. For me ‘brisk,’ in this specific instance, is so fast that much of the meaningful, moving essence of the piece has been converted into a virtuosic marathon to display the skills of the players, but not much more than that. These extremely fast performances leave me musically unsatisfied and empty.

Donald Satz wrote (March 15, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] There are plenty of folks who find Goebel/MAK too fast; I find them brisk.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I was simply pointing out what may have been a very carefully chosen understatement by Nicholas Anderson who is so extremely circumspect that he does not even characterize Herreweghe's performance style at all. Anderson's obvious reluctance to describe in somewhat greater detail what sets one Bach conductor apart from another leaves the reader with only a quick summary of the highlights of a recording/performance career, but frequently lacks descriptive details that would help the reader understand better what truly distinguishes one Bach conductor from another or one type of Bach interpretation from another. >
I agree that it might have been better to provide a more detailed characerisation. I'm rather surprised that he didn't -- it's not as if he didn't have anythint to say. Anderson wrote record reviews for Gramophone (and most Gramophone reviews can be viewed on the web for a free subscription) and BBC Music Magazine. This included many reviews of Herreweghe's Bach recordings -- mostly ranging from the positive to the enthusiastic -- and he does give detailed characterisations of Herrweeghe's style there.

< This is why I consider the interesting phrase "vigorously characterized performances" as just another one of Anderson's extremely downplayed descriptions of a conductor's performance style, one that is couched in such a way that it would not immediately be attacked by the musical performer defamation league. >
IF the implication is that Anderson dislikes Minkowski's recordings and wanted to hide this, then this is simply wrong. Anderson's reviews of some of Minkowski's recordings in Gramophone were mostly poisitive-to-enthusiastic, though (as with Herreweghe) he did express reservations when he had them.

In general, there is some difficulty in writing about conductors for a dictionary like Grove's. You're not expected to act like a critic and just voice your personal opinion; on the other hand, one could reasonably expect the entry to contain a characterisation of the performer. Perhaps Anderson erred on the side of caution (especially in the case of Herreweghe); but, at least in this context, understatement is preferable to overstatement. In any case, reading one dictionary entry is maybe sufficient to get the basic information. But if you want a characterisation of style, my first recommendation would be -- read more than one reviewer!

PS -- I do suspect there is an error about Ristenpart (though others on this list might know better): perhaps he performed, but did not record, the complete Bach cantatas. There would be a point in writing to Grove's to enquire about this: since they're online now, it shouldn't be too difficult for them to correct mistakes -- if any. Koompan's cycle, BTW, is not yet complete -- at least, not all of it has been released yet. But it will be completed quite soon.

Johan van Veen wrote (March 15, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: < In general, there is some difficulty in writing about conductors for a dictionary like Grove's. You're not expected to act like a critic and just voice your personal opinion; on the other hand, one could reasonably expect the entry to contain a characterisation of the performer. Perhaps Anderson erred on the side of caution (especially in the case of Herreweghe); but, at least in this context, understatement is preferable to overstatement. In any case, reading one dictionary entry is maybe sufficient to get the basic information. But if you want a characterisation of style, my first recommendation would be -- read more than one reviewer! >
Articles in dictionary should be as 'objective' as possible and concentrate on facts. I therefore can understand the reluctance of authors of such articles - or maybe they were instructed to be reticent by the editor - in desribing the performing style of conductors. I am sure that if some members of this list would describe - not judge! - those styles, the outcome would wildly vary. There is no such thing as strict objectivity here (if anywhere).

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I was simply pointing out what may have been a very carefully chosen understatement by Nicholas Anderson >
It may have been, but then again it may noy have been.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < These extremely fast performances leave me musically unsatisfied and empty. >
That doesn't mean they have the same effect on Nicholas Anderson.


Discussions in the Week of March 28, 2004

Neil Halliday
wrote (March 29, 2004):
Mass in B Minor. Conclusion.

A very satisfying succession of choruses and arias - Hosanna, Benedictus, Hosanna (repeat), Agnus Dei, and Dona nobis pacem, concludes the Mass.

The brilliant, joyful 'Hosanna' is well presented in all six recordings I have, namely, Richter (1961), Münchinger, Rilling (1977), Hickox, Hengelbrock, and Rilling (1999). Muchinger's recording joins the first rank, along with the others, in this movement, because the stereo separation of the two 4-part choirs is particularly well presented.

Richter's is the only performance to use a solo violin in the Benedictus; the others use a solo flute, and even with their differing stylistic elements, all the recordings capture the calm beauty of this movement.

Equally satisfying are all the recordings of the sorrowful, supplicatory 'Agnus Dei'.

What a grand conclusion to the Mass is the 'Dona nobis pacem'! Its spacious majesty slowly unfolds to finally reveal unrivalled splendour.

While Richter's trumpets have the most impact, Hengelbrock's drums are equally 'striking', and it is pleasing to hear a recent period performance that projects so much grandeur.

All of the reare, IMO, of world class status, in the five movements considered here.

John Pike wrote (March 29, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] The first recording I bought was Karajan on cassette many years ago. I never listen to it now that I have heard much better. I am pretty sure Karajan used a violin solo in the Benedictus, whereas Gardiner (the only other recording I have) uses Flute, I think. Haven't heard it for a while, but it is a fine recording, and the Dona Nobis Pacem is particularly good.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 30, 2004):
Having listened to a lot of BWV 232 over the past few weeks, I'd like to bring forward a recording which have not been mentioned and which deserves attention IMHO. I'm talking about the recording by Anders Eby on Proprius label, with the Mikaeli Chamber Choir and the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble [recorded in 1990].

This is a HIP performance, but in the Eric Ericson tradition with quite a large choir [42 singers!]. The ensemble is the same one used by Ericson, but the choir is different.

You know that choir singing is a national "sport" in Sweden, with many fine ensembles, Mikaeli being a very fine example. Eby was Ericson's student, and follows his "tradition", but I belive his recording here tops the one made by his teacher. It is a crisp recording, with a somewhat warmer sound due to the larger size choir. The soloists are Hogman [s1], Groop [s2 and Alto parts], Crook [t] and Salomaa [b]. TT 1:47:37.

I think it is still available on BRO, and inexpensive. Recommended.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 31, 2004):
< Having listened to a lot of BWV 232 over the past few weeks, I'd like to bring forward a recording which have not been mentioned and which deserves attention IMHO. I'm talking about the recording by Anders Eby on Proprius label, with the Mikaeli Chamber Choir and the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble [recorded in 1990]. >
I heard parts of it once, on headphones in the now-defunct "CDChoice" in Philadelphia. And I would have bought it except that the friend I was there with also wanted it. So I let him get it, as he didn't have any other recordings of the piece, plus his wife's surname is Eby. As I recall from that spotty listening session, a very good one indeed.

Looks like it's not available at BRO, though, in a search just now.
http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com
Any other leads?

Uri Golomb wrote (March 31, 2004):
Eby's Mass [was: Mass in B Minor.Conclusion]

I don't have Eby's recording, but I did get to hear it several times in the course of my research. It is indeed one of the more interesting recordings of the Mass, with an unusual (though not unique) combination of rounded choral sonorities and often sharp, detached phrasing from the orchestra. I enjoyed parts of it very much, though some movements sounded too clipped and analytical. So my own verdict would be -- not an ultimate recommendation, but definitely worth hearing. It's still listed on Proprius's website (www.proprius.com), so I suppose it should be available somewhere....

There's another short review of this recording on: http://www.jsbach.org/EbyMassinBMinor.html.

Jason Marmaras wrote (March 31, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] King's recording (on Hyperion) also features flute (and what a sweet traverso!) in the Benedictus. A merely discernible flaw is the (otherwise excellent) tenor, who has some sort of 'elderly' accent; I don't know how to describe it...

The Agnus Dei is very nice, but the boy-Alto gets to say quaei instead of qui in the lowest notes (I always felt better with the latin <cvi> rather than the usal italian pronounciation...)
__

I think that this (King's) recording, apart from the boy's choir and solos, will be a very good HIP recording for non-HIP fans, as the orchestra never lacks the gravity and depth of the modern orchestra. The discreet yet present ornamentation seems ideal, all soloists seem perfect, and all instruments seem perfect; I would most highly recommend it to anyone. Please don't trust me too much (as if you would ... :D ), I don't want your money on my neck/head/what's-the-expression...
__

A short comment on the Benedictus in the Edition-Bachakademie: I think it was very mean of Rilling to do what he did, for the people who got that as their first recording, to get to know the Mass... (and I didn't like it or understand it at all) Rilling had a quaver - eighth-note rest inserted into the score, thus making some bars 10/8 instead of the 'signed' 9 (!)... Any comments on this?
___

[Oh, do I despise the vibrato on Rilling!]

Regards, and excuse me, Rilling-lovers (I also love Rilling*, but not to the Death - neither mine, nor my HIP-love's, and nor the score's)

[*specifically his Choruses and the Edition-Bachakademie r. of the harpsichord concertos - of which I have no feeling of lack of harpsichord, as far as I remember]

Neil Halliday wrote (April 2, 2004):
Jason Marmaras wrote (regarding Rilling's 1999 recording):
"A short comment on the Benedictus in the Edition-Bachakademie: I think it was very mean of Rilling to do what he did, for the people who got that as their first recording, to get to know the Mass... (and I didn't like it or understand it at all) Rilling had a quaver - eighth-note rest inserted into the score, thus making some bars 10/8 instead of the 'signed' 9 (!)... Any comments on this?"
Yes, I found this to be slightly irritating, or rather, odd, on first hearing. It is, of-course, simply the flautist introducing a 'comma' (and taking his breath) at these points in the musical phrases, much as cellists (sometimes greatly) alter the length of notes at the end of phrases, in the cello suites. On repeated hearing, knowing that it exists, I accept it without detriment to the enjoyment of the movement. (BTW, that flute vibrato sounds OK to my non-HIP ears!).

A much more detrimental stylistic element evident in this recording, IMO, occurs in the Domine Deus (in the Gloria), where Rilling has the two vocalists, as well as the flautist, perform the pairs of semiquavers as a demi-semi followed by a dotted semi. I previously commented on this in the 1977 recording; however, this (1977) articulation was confined to the flute, and was charming enough; but in the 1999 recording, the flow of the music is definitely spoilt by having the vocalists also articulating their notes in this fashion.

While some movements are too fast (eg, the 'Et in terra pax'; and the "Et in Spiritum Sanctum' sounds like a light, fast dance), in general, this recording reveals good engineering, skilful playing, and excellent choral and solo vocal work. But I prefer the more moderate speeds of the 1977 recording.

For comparison: Rilling part one (CD1), 55.50; Hengelbrock 56.20. Rilling part two (CD2), 56.44; Hengelbrock 52.55.

Needless to say, Hengelbrock is too fast in at least 2 (probably more) choruses in part two, as well as an aria or two. (Rather than name them, I will let other listeners decide).

Totals: Rilling (1977), 129.46; Rilling (1999), 112.36; Hengelbrock (1997), 109.15.

Jason Marmaras wrote (April 2, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for the reply, Neil.

Yes, the Domine Deus was also quite a bit <annoying> [I've lent the CD's to my cousin, so I don't have acces to the recording right now] As for the Benedictus aria, I think that it was far too slow for the breaths' (which I would also apply to the breaths themselves - in length).

Anyway. I also noticed the extreme tempi. [About the vibrato, I was referring first and mostly to the singers' - I don’t recall the flutist's]
___

I'm most interested in listening to some Hengelbrock - are there any samples available?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 2, 2004):
< Until recently, I had assumed Mr. Lehman's "gig" was intended to trivialise Bach performance; the term certainly appeared provocative and amusing in the context of sacred music. >
Nothing I write here on these lists is ever intended to trivialize the music, or its proper performance.

I always take seriously all the music I work on. So do the prominmusicians mis-labeled here as "HIP-conductors" and their professional associates, and the thousands of less prominent musicians who haven't had that break into the media yet. The assumption that we don't take our work seriously is only an invented excuse to offer disrespects.

I've had approximately 800 to 1000 performance gigs in sacred music since 1977, not counting the composition and publication gigs; with consistently satisfied customers. Others have done more. Any suggestion that I (or anyone else sufficiently advanced in this field) doesn't take the work seriously enough is absurd. Show up for the gig, make intelligent and informed choices, do one's best; that's standard procedure.

=====

> (...) But, I am still unclear if this "dumbing-down" of Shakespeare's language has spread to native-English period performers. And when it does, who will be surprised?<

If Mr. Charles Francis ever writes anything to trivialize the work of fine musicians or calumniate their intelligence, who will be surprised?

Perhaps Mr. Francis should demonstrate that he can do any of this work himself, beyond even a second-year university level of competence. Here is a relatively easy tripartite question, from the B Minor Mass' "Confiteor", focusing on the five vocal lines:

- Give the common name for the chord G#-Bb-D-F as found on the downbeat of bar 145, according to its normal harmonic function in D major. Is Bach's resolution of it here typical or not?

- From bars 123 to 146, provide a detailed harmonic analysis explaining all the notes of the three enharmonic modulations. Explain any non-harmonic notes according to their ornamental functions within the harmony.

- Suggest a theological significance for Bach's extraordinary use of these technical resources in this passage.

Print out the NBA vocal score from: http://members.vaix.net/~bpl/confiteor.pdf

Such a question would be allotted about half an hour in a university placement exam in music theory, writing the analysis onto the score and a separate sheet. It's a "piece of cake" for anyone coming to this music as a conductor or continuo keyboardist mentally prepared to perform it, knowing what features should be brought out. Therefore, it should also be within the grasp of any who presume to criticize the work of conductors and keyboard players, or belittle our intelligence. Enjoy.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 3, 2004):
Jason Marmaras wrote: "I'm most interested in listening to some Hengelbrock - are there any samples available?"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001TZO/

The tempos in the examples are all reasonable; it's mainly the last chorus on CD1 (Cum Sanctu Spiritu) and the first two choruses on CD2 that are too fast. Also, the arias are generally faster, lighter and with 'fussier' articulation than I enjoy, but as you can hear from the samples, this recording generally has plenty of impact.

It seems the more recordings one has, the better; for the finest 'Domine Deus' I go to Münchinger; for the best Quoniam, Rilling (1977); most exhilirating Cum Sanctu Spiritu, Richter (1961) etc. etc.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 3, 2004):
That link doen't appear to work. Let's try again.

There are different movements available at these links (if the links don't work, go to amazon.co.uk and/or amazon.com and type in 'Hengelbrock AND Mass'.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/026-3665102-6748410

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000001TZO/

Gabriel Jackson (April 3, 2004):
Jason Marmaras wrote: "I'm most interested in listening to some Hengelbrock - are there any samples available?"
Neil Halliday wrote:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001TZO/
The Henhelbrock recording is to be reissued in the UK this month at mid-price in a new, French-originated, DHM mid-price series.


"Rousing and grand conclusion" to mass

Bradley Lehman
wrote (April 7, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson asks: "Who might the wrong musicians be?"
<< Those musicians who have left you with the impression that the 'Dona nobis pacem' is a "slightly lame" conclusion to the Mass in B minor -)
< This is actually quite an interesting question. For just as you propose that the "Dona nobis pacem" is "a rousing and grand conclusion" and it only the wrong musicians that fail to create that impression, one can equally argue that the conclusion actually is slightly lame but the performers can overcome the problem. >
Isn't it all moot, anyway? The high point of mass is supposed to be the moment of communion, not the moment of sending the people out the door feeling aroused.

Curmudgeons wishing to justify themselves might point out that the word "missa" comes from the last several words of the service, "ite missa est" (i.e. the dismissal of the congregation); but still, theological considerations prevail.

Listeners who treat the mass as grand entertainment (and focus on the musical setting of the Ordinary only, ignoring everything else!) obviously bring their own priorities to it.

Jef Lowell wrote (April 7, 2004):
I tend to agree with Brad's ideas regarding the idea of a rousing conclusion to The Mass. Rarely do we hear anyone complain that the Well Tempered Klavier lacks a slam-bang conclusion, or that they are dissapointed by the little b minor fugue at the end. Such expectations are surely alien to Bach.

I've always felt that all sections of the "48" were parts of a process, although the WTK is rarely performed in its entirety as is the Mass. To me, The Mass (among other things)is a series of musical impressions of various types of prayer, ranging from contrition, to exhaltation, to profoundest gratitude. Do we expect to end our prayers with a FFFF?

Don't always agree, but always appreciate Brad's insightful remarks.

PS, Is it not a wonder that In his Mass, the Grandmaster gave us music so utterly superhuman, and yet made with such touching human accents?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 7, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Isn't that a moot point as well though - the BMM is hardly ever (ever?) performed liturgically so it is now, effectively, a concert piece.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 8, 2004):
Jef Lowell wrote: “I tend to agree with Brad's ideas regarding the idea of a rousing conclusion to The Mass."
Still, I hope Mr. Jackson, who feels that the 'Dona nobis' is a "slightly lame" conclusion to the Mass, listens to Hengelbrock's very grand and exciting performance, so that he may obtain a different perspective.

If anyone finds a quiet, small, brisk rendition of the 'Dona nobis' to be a satisfying conclusion to the Mass, that's fine, but I believe the view, that Bach's composition itself is somehow inadequate, requires closer examination.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 8, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] You are missing the point here. My feelings on this are engendered by the nature of the music itself, not by any particular performance of it. If one's judgements on the quality or nature of a piece of music were based solely on how one has heard it performed in a particular instance, then one would end up with some very odd opinions. There are plenty of people who can make something "grand and exciting" of the "Dona Nobis" - that's not the point. I do want to get hold of the Hengelbrock recording though.


Dona nobis pacem - Dynamics

Charles Francis
wrote (April 10, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote Re Charles' choice for best Dona nobis, ie, Rilling's 1977 (the slowest):
This recording reveals perhaps the most profound expression of peace, at the start (from the above recordings); and I like the way it builds up to a tremendous climax. Indeed, matters of speed or tempo seem irrelevent in the face of such grandeur. (However, I find I cannot choose a 'best' recording, from this fine group).
But I would like to repeat, this score of itself increases in power asit progresses, unless you are going to have Bach's three trumpets and punctuating timpani completely 'wimping out' at the end. >
I guess various factors contribute to the dynamics: the scoring, the placing of choir and instruments, the relative number of performers of each type and, above all, the overall architectural vision and competence of the conducter. I've uploaded some graphics to illustrate how various conducters perform:

launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/Dona%20nobis%20pacem/

Here's some possible characterisations:

Gardiner: controlled build up, but peaks too soon.
Karajan: monumental at the start (no peace!), stodgy.
Parrott: no architectural vision.
Richter(62): controlled build up.
Richter (85): Karajan-like.
Rifkin: academic performance, little dynamics.
Rilling: lots of peace, highly controlled dynamic build up.

Of course, I'd be interested to hear other opinions.

Jef Lowell wrote (April 10, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Have you heard Martin Pearlman with Boston Baroque?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (April 10, 2004):
[To Jef Lowell] Fasolis: peacefull, unhurried, all-engulfing serenety, very slowly but
convincingly developing into a final build-up, culminating with a beatifully sustained, un-heroic "Pacem".

I think Fasolis had hit the nail on its head with his "Dona", which he performes in about 4 mins., as compared to only 3 mins. For the "Gratias". Most HIP conductors run both movements at roughly the same tempo, ca. 3 minutes, and Fasolis may have found here the secret of making the "Dona" special.

Paul Farseth wrote (April 11, 2004):
In response to Ehud Shiloni and Jef Lowell... I have Martin Pearlman's B Minor Mass done with the Boston Baroque. "The Dona Nobis Pacem" there is listed at 4 minutes and 18 seconds, a slowly building intensity, and I find it a worthy conclusion to the piece.

I believe one of the singers from that performance denounced it in this mailing list a year or so ago, but I recommend the performance heartily (though the only other performance I have is that of Michel Corboz, which never grabbed my attention much when I was playing it as a phonograph LP). The singer hated, I believe, Pearlman's fast tempon on the "Cum Sancto Spiritu", but I find that ecstatic outburst to be a sort of climax of the whole work, an excitement that continues on into the first two bands of the "Credo".

Charles Francis wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Thanks, for the Fasolis recommendation - I'll check it out.

Charles Francis wrote (April 12, 2004):
Jef Lowell wrote: < Have you heard Martin Pearlman with Boston Baroque? >
Thanks! I found a web site with samples: http://www.telarc.com/gscripts/title.asp?gsku=0517

From the snippet, the "Dona nobis pacem" sounds great!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 12, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Here's some possible characterisations:
Gardiner: controlled build up, but peaks too soon.
Karajan: monumental at the start (no peace!), stodgy.
Parrott: no architectural vision.
Richter(62): controlled build up.
Richter (85): Karajan-like.
Rifkin: academic performance, little dynamics.
Rilling: lots of peace, highly controlled dynamic build up. >
These are not characterisations - "no architectural vision" tells us nothing (other than, presumably, that you don't like it). What does "academic performance, little dynamics" mean - that it is all pianissimo (which Rifkin is not)?!!

The assumption here seems to be that this movement must be an even crescendo from start to finish.....

Charles Francis wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Although I have not yet performed the experiment, I guess that a straight MIDI-performance of Bach's score would yield dynamics similar to Rifkin. No criticism of Rifkin is implied here; on the contrary his goal was to present Bach as literally as possible, to establish the One Voice Per Part thesis. It is in this sense that I consider his performance 'academic'. But, when it comes to Parrott, surely one expects more than simply a performance "Urtext"; Rifkin has been there and done that already.

Look at the relevant image I uploaded and it is obvious Rilling's performance does not constitute an even crescendo from beginning to end. On the contrary, his performance breaths throughout. But there is always something held in reserve to reach a higher peak, both dynamically and emotionally.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 12, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Thanks! I found a web site with samples: http://www.telarc.com/gscripts/title.asp?gsku=0517
"From the snippet, the "Dona nobis pacem" sounds great!"
Agreed! Note the 'monumental' (or whatever word you want to use) effect engendered with the entrance of the timpani!

One point of criticism: concerning the Crucifixus, would not Bach have written the parts for flutes and violins in quavers, if he had wanted this effect?

(I prefer the effect of longer held notes for these instruments in this score, and since Bach wrote them as minims, I would confidently dispute, or rather, not emulate, Pearlman's approach.)

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 12, 2004):
Charles Francis writes: < No criticism of Rifkin is implied here; on the contrary his goal was to present Bach as literally as possible, to establish the One Voice Per Part thesis. It is in this sense that I consider his performance 'academic'. >
Undoubtedly part of the aim of Rifkin's recording was to demonstrate the viability of his OVPP theory but where he did claim to "present Bach as literally as possible" (whatever that means)?

"But, when it comes to Parrott, surely one expects more than simply a performance "Urtext"; Rifkin has been there and done that already."
What is a "performance Urtext"?

Jef Lowell wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Paul Faarseth] Ah, Pearlman's Cum Sancto! There's a soprano (presumably NOT the singer who wrote)in the ensemble whose voice is occasionally perceptable that sounds lika an angel. I know it's a "sin" to have individual voices stick out, but what a charming idiosyncrasy; and of such are memorable performances sometimes made. I fancy I hear her again in the Osanna.

Charles Francis wrote (April 13, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
"From the snippet, the "Dona nobis pacem" sounds great!"
< Agreed! Note the 'monumental' (or whatever word you want to use) effect engendered with the entrance of the timpani! >
Just in case you haven't heard the new Junghäenel recording, there are some snippets including the Dona nobis pacem at: http://tinyurl.com/37lfr

Some post-grad really should do a thesis on Historically Informed Performance and the influence of the Swingle Singers.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 13, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < Some post-grad really should do a thesis on Historically Informed Performance and the influence of the Swingle Singers. >
Is this kind of inanity the best you can come up with?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 13, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < Just in case you haven't heard the new Junghänel recording, there are some snippets including the Dona nobis pacem at: http://tinyurl.com/37lfr
Some post-grad really should do a thesis on Historically Informed Performance and the influence of the Swingle Singers. >
It is odd that this poster declares himself convinced by the OVPP theory yet belittles a substantial new recording like this on the basis on a couple of audio samples. Also odd is that he professes himself an admirer of Junghänel's recordings (though not concerts, apparently) yet regards this silliness as an appropriate response to a new recording by an artist he admires.

A pattern is emerging here: attack and ridicule the work of serious and committed musicians, make a few assertions that aren't true to further the cause and when the flaws in your argument are pointed out, resort to snide facetiousness. It's quite sad really.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 13, 2004):
< Just in case you haven't heard the new Junghänel recording, there are some snippets including the Dona nobis paceat: http://tinyurl.com/37lfr >
This recording deserves some attention.

As Uri pointed out: in the Qui tollis, the clear articulation of the crotchets in the continuo, and differentiation between the cellos and continuo (double basses), as per the score, is very effective. It's an important detail that's all too often missed. (Same with the continuo in the SJP's opening chorus). The flutes are fine, and I hope the viola(s) and violins are more audible than in the sample.

Notice that in the Crucifixus, Junghänel treats the minims as 'tenuto', which gives a stronger, more telling reading of the score than Pearlman achieved; but the violins do appear to be a little weak, in comparison with the flutes, which are fine.

The relatively fast 'Gratias' manages to 'pack some punch' with those timpani strokes; but I think the examples of Pearlman, Hengelbrock, and Hickox, show the desirability of ending the Mass with a more expansive, spacious tempo than the somewhat rushed 'Dona nobis' heard in this sample.

Junghänel's Sanctus also lacks majesty in comparison with the above listed conductors.

One could certainly assemble a very desirable Mass in B Minor, from all the HIP recordings mentioned above (although I haven't sampled all the arias, and it's possible all the recordings of one or more of the arias are too fast and light for my taste).


Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Recordings:
Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12
Systematic Discussions:
Part 1: Kyrie | Part 2: Gloria | Part 3: Credo | Part 4: Sanctus | Part 5: Agnus Dei | Part 6: Early Recordings | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - Abbado | BWV 232 - Biller | BWV 232 - Brüggen | BWV 232 - Corboz | BWV 232 - Eby | BWV 232 - Ericson | BWV 232 - Fasolis | BWV 232 - Gardiner | BWV 232 - Giulini | BWV 232 - Harnoncourt | BWV 232 - Hengelbrock | BWV 232 - Herreweghe | BWV 232 - Jacobs | BWV 232 - Jochum | BWV 232 - Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | BWV 232 - Karajan | BWV 232 – King | BWV 232 - Klemperer | BWV 232 - Kuijken | BWV 232 - Leonhardt | BWV 232 - Ozawa | BWV 232 - Pearlman | BWV 232 - Richter | BWV 232 - Rifkin | BWV 232 – Rilling | BWV 232 - Scherchen | BWV 232 – Schreier | BWV 232 - Shaw | BWV 232 - Solti | BWV 232 - Suzuki | BWV 232 - J. Thomas & ABS
Articles:
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 (by Teri Noel Towe) | Bach’s B minor Mass on Period Instruments (by Donald Satz) | Like Father, Like Son [By Boyd Pehrson]

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Last update: ýApril 18, 2004 ý10:23:48