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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

Mass in B minor BWV 232
Conducted by John Eliot Gardiner


J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor · Messe in h-moll · Messe en Si Mineur


Mass in B minor BWV 232

John Eliot Gardiner

Monteverdi Choir / English Baroque Soloists

Sopranos: Nancy Argenta, Lynne Dawson, Jane Fairfield, Jean Knibbs, Patrizia Kwella; Mezzo-sopranos: Carol Hall, Mary Nichols; Counter-tenors: Michael Chance, Patrick Collin, Ashley Stafford; Tenors: Wynford Evans, Howard Milner, Andrew Murgatroyd; Basses: Richard Lloyd-Morgan, Stephen Varcoe
Harpsichord: Paul Nicholson

Archiv Produktion

Feb 1985

2-CD / TT: 106:22

Recorded in All Saints Church, Tooting, London, England.
Buy this album at:

Gardiner's B Minor Mass

Sam Frederick wrote (June 17, 1999):
I bought my first B Minor Mass and am somewhat disappointed with this recording. I know this will sound like I have no ears to some, but I find Gardiner's version not very satisfying. The choruses are wonderfully, always Gardiner's strength, but except for Michael Chance, the soloists are just not to my liking. He uses Mezzos where he should use Conter-tenors in the duets (at least he leaves the alto arias to Chance) and the sopranos are all just as wobbly (the best word I can use to describe them) as the mezzos. I prefer strong, but clear and with minimal vibrato, voices. Ruth Holton on Gardiner's BWV 140 for example is a fine soprano, as is Ann Monoyios on his SMP (whereas B Bonney appeal less, much less, to me). And as for mezzos, if they need to be used, Anne Sofie von Otter is terrific.

Given this criticism what other recordings of this work may I like better? One which uses exclusively counter-tenors perhaps (does such a recording exist?)? How is Herreweghe by comparison? Others?

Steven Langley Guy wrote (June 18, 1999):
(To Sam Frederick) I think that you would like the B Minor Mass of Thomas Hengelbrock/Freiburger Barockorchester/Balthasar-Neumann-Chor on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472-77380-2 (2 CD set).

Countertenor Jürgen Banholzer sings in 'Qui sedes' & 'Et in unum' and countertenor (more a mezzo) Bernard Landauer sings the second soprano (!) in 'Christe eleison' and the alto solo 'Agnus Dei'. Both are good singers and make sounds that even countertenor-phobes couldn't complain about. All the vocal soloists are drawn from the choir and there are some obviously very good singers in this choir. The sopranos are 'laser-beam sopranos' (like Emma Kirkby - little or no vibrato and a straight clear tone) and blend fantastically with the countertenors - particularly in the 'Christe eleison'.

The overall sound is very good and the orchestra is perhaps even better than the English Baroque Soloists. The Herreweghe recordings feature countertenors - the first Charles Brett (on VIRGIN) and the second Andreas Scholl (French Harmonia Mundi). I haven't heard the second but Scholl is as good a countertenor as one could wish for. Brett is fine by me, I quite like his sound but he is one of the older English school countertenors whose sound doesn't appeal to everyone. I also find Herreweghe's first B Minor Mass somewhat...well... 'insipid'

The orchestral sound is good but the whole thing sounds 'timid' and 'held back'. I am sure many may love this recording and I hope I am not offending their tastes.

As for Hengelbrock's B Minor Mass - you should at least have a listen to it.


Bach Mass in B minor: Shaw / Rilling / Gardiner

Mark Zimmerman wrote (April 28, 2001):
Ok, first I want to thank everyone for there advice on Bach's Mass in B minor. As I said earlier I already have the Shaw & Gardiner. Now I have the Rilling and for me it goes to the head of the class. But, let me explain: the thing is I'm a fanatic for sound quality and the Gardiner just doesn't have it in this category (although it seems to be a more lively performance, something I really like). I have some expectation that on HIP recordings the sound may be a little drier due to the instruments, however I have several HIP recordings of other works where the sound is great. So for me I have a difficult time following the fugues in the Mass on Gardiner, something I really enjoy. Rilling on the other hand is using mostly modern instruments but scaled down at or near the HIP level. The sound given to him by Hanssler is wonderfully rich and detailed and I can follow everything in the work.

On my second listen-through of the Mass I decided to do the Kyrie on all three sets and start with the Shaw, ending up with the Gardiner just to see if I had judged things right. I had, however, this time I noticed that I was able to follow the Gardiner better (this right after listening to the Rilling). So, I guess it turns out that the Rilling will be my mainstay followed by either the Gardiner or Shaw. But, knowing myself I will probably remain loyal to the Rilling as I enjoyed it the most. Now if only Gardiner would re-record the piece with state-of-the-art sound.


Gardiner's B Minor Mass

Continue of discussion from: Mass in B minor BWV 232 - General Discussions - Part 9

Peter Bright wrote (December 6, 2003):
[To Julian Sguera] I am only just hanging on to this group - I now rarely check my emails from BachRecordings because I know that they will just be full of boring nonsense arising from bruised egos - why these people think that we are interested in their rudeness to each other (why can't they do this in personal emails?) I don't know.

Thanks for your query on the B Minor Mass. I also find the Gardiner to be exceptionally good, although I haven't heard it for a while. I also enjoy Andrew Parrot's version, now available at budget price (Virgin) – the performance can be a little lacking in emotional force (Parrot uses a pared down vocal force in line with his views on historically informed performance practice of Bach's time). However, what he loses in weight and intensity he gains in beautiful, clean music and vocal lines. The "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" is the finest on record for me. However, I still always return to Richter's Mass from around 1960 on Archiv. Once the shock on the unbelievably slow first Kyrie has passed, Richter weaves a musical spell of great majesty. Certainly not one for the period instrument/HIP purists, but it is one of my desert island discs and I would not want to be without it.

Hope this helps!

Donald Satz wrote (December 6, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] I think it's best to have a number of recordings of the Mass in B minor. I'd go with Gardiner, Parrott, Hickox, King, Leonhardt, and Rifkin. The Richter would be only one on modern instruments I would keep. I just hate the sound of those modern strings in baroque music.

Uri Golomb wrote (December 6, 2003):
Since I'm now in the finishing stages of a PhD dissertation on recordings of the Mass (, I should take part in this discussion... However, since I have to comply by the fast-approaching deadline for submitting said dissertation, I'm not sure I'd have thtime to do so properly.

So for the moment, a very brief and highly personal list of favourite recordings (reflecting the recordings I personally like best, not the selection of historically-important recordings I focus on in my thesis):

Favourite on modern instruments -- Eugen Jochum's second version (EMI, 1980).

Favourites on period instruments: Hickox and Herreweghe (his second recording, on Harmonia Mundi) -- as relatively "safe" recommendations; Harnoncourt (his second, 1986 version) and Hengelbrock as more "risky" recommendations -- performances I personally admire and enjoy, but on the other hand are so filled with idiosyncratic gestures and ideas that I'd find it difficult to recommend them to others -- while some listeners would share my view and be intensely moved by these readings, others might well find them eccentric.

Also, there's an interesting article on the subject by Bernard Sherman, which is definitely worth examining:

As for Gardiner: I like many moments in it -- and, unlike Brad, I really admire the way he shapes the transition from "Confiteor" to "Expecto" (and also his cumulative build-up of the "Gratias" and "Dona nobis", and Michael Chance's "Agnus dei") -- but on the whole I think it's neither his best recording, nor the best Mass. Some moments (and movements) are too brash and slick to my taste. Hickox's vision of the work resembles Gardiner's, in many ways, but he is ultimately more subtle, thoughtful and refined -- so I prefer his version. That said, I suspect that if Gardiner were to re-do the Mass now -- with the experience of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage behind him -- the result would be much more moving than hsi 1985 version.

Oh -- and I have very high expectations from Cantus Cölln's version, but I resolved not to hear it unitl after I've submitted my dissertation. (I have to shorten it -- that's my primary task at the moment; the last thing I need it to add anything substantial...)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 6, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] For reasons I cannot explain and they really don't matter, while King's resonates with me (with its self-evident faults), Leonhardt's does not. The sound or rather the sonics do not transmit the performance to me, perhaps. OTOH, modern or not, the 1951 Enescu on BBC Legends really does move me. I have no doctrine, just respond to that to which I respond.


New York Time Review of Gardiner's performance in Albert Hall

Dale Gedcke wrote (August 18, 2004):
In the August 18, 2004 online edition of the New York Times, there is a review of the recent performance by John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in Bach's Mass in B Minor at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. You may find the comments on the period instruments interesting.

You should be able to access this review at:

John Pike wrote (August 18, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Most interesting. OVPP! Many thanks

Chopin wrote (August 18, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Thanks - interesting article.

In the article, the author makes a statement that the Royal Albert Hall in London may be acoustically dead. Does anyone know if this is true?

Russell Telfer wrote (August 18, 2004):
[To Chopin] This is a case of defining terms. What is acoustically dead? I've performed and listened, in many different parts of the Hall. Sometimes sounds seem dead, at other times, they're vibrant. If you like what you're hearing (eg the beginning of SMP) you aren't going to concern yourself with this issue.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 18, 2004):
[To Russell Telfer] Well, the article stated: "RATHER dead", which is not the same as straightforward "dead"....:-)

From my own experience, the acoustics at the Royal Albert Hall are quite peculiar and generally unlike other halls. Perhaps this is due to the circular shape of the hall. The overall impression is that the performers sound more distant than expected, but you definitely do not get the suffocating "feel" of the sound in really "dead" halls.

And, BTW, the experience is enhanced by the majestic yet friendly surroundings, making the RAH a recommended venue for performances.

Another thing: The article mentioned " modest forces, hardly one singer to a choral part" , but was it really an OVPP performance? OVPP is not the usual Gardiner/Monteverdi modus operandi. Anyone been to that concert?

Ludwig wrote (August 19, 2004):
[To Chopin] I have never been in the Royal Albert but I have long read from the days of it's construction that it has excellent acoustics. Most old auditoriums did as in the old days they did not have electronic equipment to cover up the deficiencies of acoustics. One was either heard or not heard in the furtherest rows and balconys. It is shameful that most architects do not know how to construct and design buildings like this anymore and instead rely on microphones and amplification systems to cover up the acoustic deficiencies of their designs. A good acoustic situation should be like St. Paul's dome---you can hear a whisper from someone the furtherest away from you who is unaware that you can easily here what they are saying.

John Pike wrote (August 19, 2004):
[To Ludwig] I have been to many concerts in the RAH....the acoustics are superb in general but one wonders how well they are suited to an OVPP performance of the MBM.

Chopin wrote (August 19, 2004):
[To John Pike] Thank you all for your replies. I have always wanted to visit the RAH and was disappointed to read that comment. I will continue to look forward to the opportunity to take in a concert there one day. I just haven't made it across the ocean "yet."

Uri Golomb wrote (August 19, 2004):
Albert Hall

In my years of residency in England, I've had the good fortune of attending quite a few Proms, including several performances of Bach's vocal music (SMP with Herreweghe and Pinnock -- the latter at the kind invitation of fellow-BCML member Ehud Shiloni; SJP with Ivor Bolton; B minor Mass with Norrington; solo works with Ian Bostridge and Europa Galante). I've heard most of these from the Gallery -- at the very top of the hall -- though I did get the chance to hear some of them in the stalls and in the arena (the standing area right next to the stage).

My impression: the acoustics at the top of the hall are surprisingly good -- even in the Europa Galante concert, which featured a chamber-music consort and solo singers, I didn't have to strain my ears too much (except for the solo flute in Ich habe genug....(BWV 82)). You feel that the musicians are at some distance, but the sound still comes through with good clarity and life. The problems actually occur closer to the stage. My weirdest experience was the Herreweghe SMP (with the same team as his second recording -- that concert was part of the tour which preceded the recording sessions). In the first half, I stood at the back of the arena, and the sound was strangely distorted: I particularly remember a weird echo around the oboe, which made the obbligato part in "Ich will bei meinen Jesum wachen" almsot intolerable. During the intermission, I managed to wiggle my way through to the front of the arena, very close to the stage -- and that short distance, just a few metres from where I previously stood, made all the difference: suddenly the sound had much greater presence and fewer distortions. Go figure.

As for the Gardiner concert: I should receive a tape of the radio broadcast in a few weeks' time; but in any case, I'm almost certain that the NYT reporter made a mistake regarding the number of singers (or perhaps the fault was with the way his text was edited): GArdiner would never deprive his Monteverdi Choir of the great choral numbers of the Mass. Perhaps he did in the concert what he also did in his 1985 recording: allocating a few select passages and movements to the soloists, but performing mof the work with the full choir. In that recording, for example, the opening bars of the First Kyrie (up until the bass's entry) and the entire Crucifixus were sung by soloists (and these weren't the only solo passages). In the Cantata Pilgrimage, Gardiner extended this idea to several cantata choruses, so it's quite likely that he retained it for the Mass -- maybe even using soloists more frequently than he did in his recording. But perhaps someone who actually heard the concert itself can enlighten us on this.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 19, 2004):
A small correction to my previous message. I wrote that in Gardiner's recording of the Mass, "the opening bars of the First Kyrie (up until the bass's entry)" are performed by soloists. Actually, the opening four-bar introduction is done by the full chorus; the soloists sing the first four fugal entries. The last entry (basses) is choral, and shortly afterwards the other voices move from solo to choral (at the same time that the orchestra begins to double their lines). A similar move can be heard in the recordings by Robert Shaw (1960 and 1990) and Andrew Parrott, but the effect is much more dramatic in Gardiner's version.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (August 19, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] Jos van Veldhoven has done the same thing with the Nederlandse Bach Vereniging. I was in the choir, very eager to sing along. The consequence of soloists singing important lines, is that the choir becomes very eager to sing the rest.


J.E. Gardiner performs the Mass in B minor at Thomaskirche Leipzig on June 20, 2010

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 2, 2010):
Last week I heard the Mass in B minor performed by J.E. Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists at the Thomaskirche on the closing concert of Bachfest Leipzig 2010.
I'll say it in short:
We were 6 people who had come from Israel especially for this concert, all of them shared similar feelings.
To this day I have not yet recovered from this experience. One of my friends reacted cleverly: why should you?

Philip Peters wrote (July 2, 2010):
[To Aryeh Oron] Who were the soloists?

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 2, 2010):
Philip Peters asked:
"Who were the soloists?"
Sopranos: Lenneke Ruiten, Esther Brazil
Altos: Heather Cairncross, Meg Bragle
Tenor: Peter Davoren
Basses: Alexander Ashworth, Samuel Evans, Jonathan Sells

All of them members of the excellent Monteverdi Choir; another factor which contributed to the unity and cohesiveness of the performance. None of them a "big name" yet, but all were surprisingly good. Especially impressive was the alto who sang the Agnus Dei (Meg Bragle?).

Philip Peters wrote (July 2, 2010):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for his information, Aryeh.


Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of 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 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18
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 - C. Abbado | BWV 232 - Anonymous | BWV 232 - G.C. Biller | BWV 232 - F. Brüggen | BWV 232 - J. Butt | BWV 232 - S. Celibidache | BWV 232 - M. Corboz | BWV 232 - A. Eby | BWV 232 - G. Enescu | BWV 232 - E. Ericson | BWV 232 - D. Fasolis | BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 232 - C.M. Giulini | BWV 232 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 232 - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 232 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 232 - R. Hickox | BWV 232 - R. Jacobs | BWV 232 - E. Jochum | BWV 232 - Ifor Jones | BWV 232 - K. Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | BWV 232 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 232 - R. King | BWV 232 - O. Klemperer | BWV 232 - S. Kuijken | BWV 232 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 232 - P. McCreesh | BWV 232 - M. Minkowski | BWV 232 - H. Müller-Bruhl | BWV 232 - S. Ozawa | BWV 232 - M. Pearlman | BWV 232 - K. Richter | BWV 232 - J. Rifkin | BWV 232 - H. Rilling | BWV 232 - H. Scherchen | BWV 232 - P. Schreier | BWV 232 - R. Shaw | BWV 232 - G. Solti | BWV 232 - M. Suzuki | BWV 232 - J. Thomas & ABS | BWV 232 - K. Thomas | BWV 232 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 [T. Noel Towe] | Bach’s B minor Mass on Period Instruments [D. Satz] | Like Father, Like Son [B. Pehrson]

John Eliot Gardiner: Short Biography | Monteverdi Choir | English Baroque Soloists
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Videos | Recordings of Instrumental Works
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 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Newsletters
Cantatas BWV 106, 118b, 198 | Cantatas BWV 140, 147 | Cantatas BWV 11, 37, 43, 128 | Cantatas BWV 6, 66 | Cantatas BWV 72, 73, 111, 156 | Cantatas BWV 82, 83, 125, 200
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage:
BCP - Vols 1&8 | BCP - Vol. 6 | BCP - Vol. 9 | BCP - Vol. 13 | BCP - Vol. 14 | BCP - Vol. 15 | BCP - Vol. 21 | BCP - Vol. 22 | BCP - Vol. 23 | BCP - Vol. 24 | BCP - Vol. 26 | Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD | DVD John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 1127 - J.E. Gardiner
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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


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