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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 Thomas Hengelbrock

V-1

J.S. Bach: Messe h-moll/Mass B minor BWV 232


Mass in B minor BWV 232

Thomas Hengelbrock

Balthasar-Neumann-Chor / Freiburger Barockorchester

Sopranos: Gundula Anders, Mona Spägele, Ursula Fiedler; Altos: Jürgen Banholzer, Bernhard Landauer; Tenors: Hermann Oswald, Knut Schoch; Basses: Johannes-Christoph Happel, Stephan MacLeod

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

Oct 1996

2-CD / TT: 109:15

Recorded at Evangelishe Kirche / Church Gönningen during Schwetzingen Festival.
See: Mass in B minor BWV 232 - conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com [Extracts]

Hengelbrock's B minor Mass

Neil Halliday
wrote (March 18, 2004):
This is generally a fine recording, with excellent engineering, excellent choir, and plenty of impact.

The two Kyries feature tempi as slow as Richter, which certainly helps to convey the sombre majesty inherent in the score.

The arias and duets are well performed, in the context of a generally lighter idiom than I am used to (which is the heavier, more spacious non-HIP idiom). However, in the (male) alto aria "Qui sedes" (in the Gloria) was I concerned with the excessive level of 'messe di voce' employed by the soloist, in conjunction with an overly 'fussy' instrumental articulation; while in the 'Et in unum Deum' duet(Credo) it is the swelling, overly detached violin articulation that I dislike in places. The pizzicato bass in the "Domine Deus' duet is charming.

In the Gloria, the 'Qui tollis' suffers from lack of presence of the important parts for the two flutes. The violas sound strange, too, but with stronger flutes and a slightly slower tempo, the whole movement might have been very effective.

The main 'disaster' in the Gloria is the Cum Sanctu Spiritu, which is rushed along at a breakneck speed.

The next two choruses, ie, the 1st two choruses of the Credo, are light and also too fast, IMO, and the music consequently loses its ability to convey the strength and affirmation of faith. The powerful timpani strokes at the end are the best part of the 'Patrem omnipotentem'.

The 'Et incarnatus est' and 'Crucifixus' are very moving, in the context of their quiet, intimate manner; in the latter movement, the voices begin, somewhat disconcertingly, to detach the syllables of the words, but fortunately, they soon abandon this in favour of a legato approach. The violins and flutes are clearly articulated, except in the diminuendo at the end.

The 'Et resurrexit' - is it too fast? Anyway, it still has some powerful and exciting moments, as have the remainder of the Credo's choruses.

I will report on the Sanctus next week.


An Inspiring Bach Record

Sw Anandgyan wrote (April 23, 2004):
[To Pierce Drew] I got my hand on the Hengelbrock's MBM at one of my favourite second-hand CD shops. Oh the surprisingly solemn Kyrie. Uri was quite right in his appreciation of this recording.

It reminded me of the personalized stamp that can be put on an oeuvre; Marc Minkowski sure did this with his " Messiah " but to much distress on my end. Not so with this Bach recording, it made me get his take on the Magnificat BWV 243a I was so taken.

I have listened to my three MBM OVPP as to make a gentle reintroduction to the Cantus Cölln recording; all this to say that even though I'm not an advocate of this school, my ears, and my psyche, were thoroughly satisfied with Parrott and Rifkin. The Junghanel is slowly growing on me.

But Hengelbrock is like a tiny revelation; it's so savoury.

Drew Pierce wrote (April 23, 2004):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I'm glad to see that you recommend the Hengelbrock MBM -- I have been "eyeing it" for a while, and noticed that it has been re-released at budget price (9,73 euros): http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001K5SU6/

"Personalized stamp," although inevitable, is what makes music so fun and fascinating, and, I suppose, is a big part of why this discussion groups exists. My family members, however, don't seem to understand why I have eight or nine recordings of the MBM.

I agree with your assessment of Minkowski's Messiah. "Messiah" is what introduced me to baroque music and so I am always interested in a recording that brings new insight.

For a long time Hogwood's pioneering recording was my favorite. But lately I have found myself turning frequently to McCreesh's recording. His tempi are often brisk, but not "out of control" like Minkowski. Too bad, too. I think Minkowski's other Händel recordings are quite good: I have really enjoyed his Giulio Cesare. And his "Dardanus" is far and away my favorite recording of Rameau's music.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 25, 2004):
Sw Anandgyan wrote: < I got my hand on the Hengelbrock's MBM at one of my favourite second-hand CD shops. Oh the surprisingly solemn Kyrie. Uri was quite right in his appreciation of this recording. >
I've also just got hold of Hengelbrock's B minor Mass. I've only listened to it once so far but clearly it is a stimulating and interesting peformance. The choral singing is terrific - the sound of Belgian, Dutch and German choirs is generally so much more satisfying in this music than the much-vaunted prowess of British chois (to my mind at least). One or two of the soloists aren't ideal perhaps, but that didn't bother me too much, and their being drawn from the choir undoubtedly contributes to the sense of an intergrated, thought-out conception that pervades the whole performance. The orchestral playing is similarly expert - the strings have a lovely 'grainy quality'.

Hengelbrock's direction is highly imaginative - perhaps too imaginative at times. Some of his ideas about phrasing and articulation - this seems to only affect the choir really - strike me as rather mannered: the decrescendo on the second chord of Kyrie I doesn't really work for me; the periodic detaching of adjacent syllables is perhaps a bit intrusive and fussy as are the little dynamic 'bulges' at certain points. The minute 'hiatus' before the final chord of many choral movements is a bit of a mannerism too. But these things worried me less as the performance wore on - either they were more convincing (both in conception and execution) in the latter stages of the piece or I was starting to 'get' Hengelbrock's concept more.

The slow tempo of Kyrie 1 makes sense in terms of Hengelbrock's scheme of things (though the opening invocation seemed a little unsure of itself in gestural terms) and the fast tempi (Cum Sancto Spiritu in particular) that have worried others I found exciting and apt.

This recording does raise interesting questions: in a performance that uses period instruments, and adheres to other aspects of what is broadly thought of as 'period' practice, is it appropriate to use extremes of tempo and employ other interpretative interventions that may go beyond what Bach would expect? If the object is to come as close as possible to performing the piece as we believe Bach would have done (an impossible task of course, and complicated in this case by the likelihood that the piece wasn't performed complete by Bach) the answer has to be no. (And the employment of female singers is obviously out of the question if that is the case.) But if the justification for using period instruments and a small group of singers with relatively straight voices (etc. etc.) is that, irrespective of historical considerations, these things simply serve the music better, it is a different matter. I have always inclined to that rationale - period instruments simply sound better to me. (I don't know why adherents of modern instruments don't acknowledge that to them, they simply sound better and serve the music better, instead of the frequent attamto claim that Bach would have liked them too!) Nonetheless, the combination of period forces and a degree of directorial freedom that owes more to late 19th and 20th century notions of 'interpretation' is a provocative and interesting one, and Hengelbrock's recording is particularly stimulating (if controversial) in that respect.

Thanks to all those that have extolled its virtues - I'm looking forward to hearing it again as soon as is practicable.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 25, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < I've also just got hold of Hengelbrock's B minor Mass.
<snipped>
This recording does raise interesting questions: in a performance that uses period instruments, and adheres to other aspects of what is broadly thought of as 'period' practice, is it appropriate to use extremes of tempo and employ other interpretative interventions that may go beyond what Bach would expect? >
I don't know this parfticular recording, so could you explain what you mean by 'other interpretive interventions that may go beyound what Bach would expect'?

In general I don't think extremes of tempo are against the habits of Bach's time. I think I have read somewhere someone said Bach took fast tempi *very* fast (wasn't it Carl Philipp Emanuel who said that?).

What does Hengelbrock do that is beyond what Bach would expect?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 25, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] I am not necessarily sure that, interpretively, Hengelbrock does go beyond what Bach would expect (how could anyone be absolutely sure?!) although his use of womens' voices certainly does (of course). In matters of tempo, very fast tempi in fast music seem entirely plausible to me (and very succesful), but I am less sure about very slow tempi in slow music (Hengelbrock's Kyrie I is very slow indeed). It is the highly nuanced, very detailed articulation from the choir, his approach to the declamation of the text which leads to 'expressive' emphasis of certain syllables, the dynamic inflections (at a micro level) and the feeling throughout that the piece is being quite self-consciously 'interpreted' that strike me as more a product of a late 19th and 20th century perspective. If one considers Philippe Herreweghe's maxim about the role of the conductor in Baroque music, Hengelbrock certainly does things that would be impossible without a conductor.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 25, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < I am not necessarily sure that, interpretively, Hengelbrock does go beyond what Bach would expect (how could anyone be absolutely sure?!) although his use of womens' voices certainly does (of course). >
Of course. But the use of women's voices is common practice today, unfortunately. Not that there are no boys' choirs available and even boys who are capable of singing solo parts, but most conductors seem either not to like their way of singing or to be too lazy to try to use a boys' choir.

< In matters of tempo, very fast tempi in fast music seem entirely plausible to me (and very >succesful), but I am less sure about very slow tempi in slow music (Hengelbrock's Kyrie I is very slow indeed). >
I hope to hear for myself in due course. In general, though, I am often disappointed about the lack of contrast in tempi in many recent recordings of 17th and 18th century music. My own impression is that too many musicians adopt a middle course in regard to tempo, which I believe is in contrast with common practice in those times.

< It is the highly nuanced, very detailed articulation from the choir, his approach to the declamation of the text which leads to 'expressive' emphasis of certain syllables, the dynamic inflections (at a micro level) and the feeling throughout that the piece is being quite self-consciously 'interpreted' that strike me as more a product of a late 19th and 20th century perspective. >
I rather think this is in line with the principle of music as speech (Musik als Klangrede). And I believe that in particular German music hardly can be 'over-articulated'. In my ears German is a strongly 'non-legato' language, which requires very careful differentiation between words and syllables. And again, my experience is often a lack of it in many recordings.

If you forgive me, I tend to think I am going to like recordings which a British reviewer calls 'mannerist', and when he gives a positive assessment of a recording because it isn't 'mannerist' I am pretty sure I am going to hate it ;)

< If one considers Philippe Herreweghe's maxim about the role of the conductor in Baroque music, Hengelbrock certainly does things that would be impossible without a conductor. >
But I am not sure at all that Herreweghe is right in minimising the role of the conductor. Sure, in pre-romantic times the 'conductor' wasn't the kind of person we see on the stage in our time, but I can't believe that people like Schütz or Bach or Palestrina really gave every singer or instrumentalist in the performances they directed an equal say in the interpretations. The role of the 'music director' or Kapellmeister or whatever you want to call him is difficult to compare with his modern counterpart in that most of them in pre-romantic times directed mostly their own compositions. And they knew best how to perform their own works, one may assume.

I also tend to think that things like phrasing and articulation weren't something the Kapellmeister had to explain, since they were part of the esthetic standards of the time, and the musicians knew the music of 'their' Kapellmeister.
Therefore I doubt that the things Hengelbrock is doing - at least as far as I can understand from your description - are a product of the 19th or 20th century.

John Pike wrote (April 25, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] I have Harnoncourt/Leonhardt's complete cantata cycle. Sometimes, the boy soloists are very successful; on other occasions, I feel, much less so. We have the same problem today as Bach did in his.finding boy soloists who are capable of performing this very difficult music to the requisite standard. Bach once complained about the lack of good singers at his disposal.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 25, 2004):
[To John Pike] I don't doubt that boy singers in Bach's time were not always of the highest calibre. But I wouldn't base that on Bach's account only. Was he ever satisfied with anyone? A genius like Bach undoubtedly was, tends to set standards nobody can really come up to.

And Bach wasn't an easy man to deal with anyway.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 26, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < But the use of women's voices is common practice today, unfortunately. Not that there are no boys' choirs available and even boys who are capable of singing solo parts, but most conductors seem either not to like their way of singing or to be too lazy to try to use a boys' choir. >
Indeed. And the most ridiculous claim that is often made about boys is that they aren't emotionally mature enough to respond appropriately to the subject matter of Bach's arias, despite the fact that (in this country at least) they are every day singing Latin texts of considerable theological and emotional sophistication.

"In general, though, I am often disappointed about the lack of contrast in tempi in many recent recordings of 17th and 18th century music. My own impression is that too many musicians adopt a middle course in regard to tempo, which I believe is in contrast with common practice in those times."
I agree. And Hengelbrock's tempi are not particularly contentious in that respect.

"I rather think this is in line with the principle of music as speech (Musik als Klangrede). And I believe that in particular German music hardly can be 'over-articulated'. In my ears German is a strongly 'non-legato' language, which requires very careful differentiation between words and syllables. And again, my experience is often a lack of it in many recordings."
That is certainly true; my only question is whether Hengelbrock's ideas owe more to a 19th/20th century idea of expressivity. And it is only a question, at this stage, having heard the recording only once.

"If you forgive me, I tend to think I am going to like recordings which a British reviewer calls'mannerist', and when he gives a positive assessment of a recording because it isn't 'mannerist' I am pretty sure I am going to hate it ;)"
Well I'm certainly in favour of peformances that evince a strong conceptual identity, and are bold and imaginative. I'm not one of those British listeners that likes middle-of-the-road, blandly efficient recordings. While I admire enormously our great choral tradition in Britain, I think we tend to be very blinkered when it comes to appreciating the vibrant choral cultures of our European neighbours. In Baroque music, my preference tends to be very much for the performances of Dutch, Belgian and German groups, rather than British ones. In earlier music, things may be a little different.....


Hengelbrock B minor mass

John Pike wrote (July 6, 2004):
Hegelbrock's recording of the B minor mass has been reissued on a budget label and was very well revieweed this month in BBB music magazine:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001K5SU6/


Hengelbrock MBM

Continue of discussion from: Performance of Bach’s Vocal Works - General Discussions - Part 10


Neil Halliday wrote (November 19, 2004):
Lord of Terror wrote: <...... "monumentality". This "revealed" monumentality/sentimentality of Bach is nothing more than the usual superstar conductors' cheap methods to win their usual intellectually disengaged audience.>
You need to define your terms. "Monumentality" is not necessarily solely characteristic of, or confined to, an orchestra of modern instruments.

For example, the B minor Mass is inherently "monumental". Listen to the recordings of Hengelbrock and Hickox, on period instruments.

Of course, one can miniaturize the B minor mass, by performing it OPPP, but most people like "monumentalism" where it's appropriate - like in the architecture of St. Peter's Cathedral - and in the B minor Mass. That's why Rivkin can't make any money out of his approach.

Uri Golomb wrote (November 19, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote: < You need to define your terms. "Monumentality" is not necessarily solely characteristic of, or confined to, an orchestra of modern instruments. >
What is your definition, then?

< For example, the B minor Mass is inherently "monumental". >
All of it? In what sense?

< Listen to the recordings of Hengelbrock and Hickox, on period instruments. >
I can understand -- not necessarily endorse -- the classification "monumental" with regard to some movements in Hengelbrock's performance; not so much in Hickox's. (I'm not being judgmental here -- I like both recordings very much). Though I must add that the only "monumental" thing about Hengelbrock is his slow tempi in some movements and his frequent use of continuous, legato articulation. In other respects, he creates a palpable sense of tension which might be at odds with the "monumental".

For me, the word "monumental" has architectonic associations, and therefore a monumental performance is one with a somewhat static character (which, on the whole, I find inapparopriate in most of the Mass). In this sense, Hengelbrock does not qualify: the opening of his First Kyrie -- with a huge crescendo-diminuendo gesture -- is about as un-monumental as it gets, its slow tempo notwithstanding. Other people, hwoever, might not have the same assocations.

< Of course, one can miniaturize the B minor mass, by performing it OPPP, but most people like "monumentalism" where it's appropriate - like in the architecture of St. Peter's Cathedral - and in the B minor Mass. That's why Rivkin can't make any money out of his approach. >
What do you know about Rifkin's finances? And those of Parrott, Junghänel,
McCreesh and several other musicians who perform Bach's vocal music OVPP? And on how they compare with those of supposedly more monumental musicians?

Neil Halliday wrote (November 20, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: <"What is your definition (of "monumentalism"), then?">
"Monumentalism" is not easy to define (as you have recognised in your post), but my point was that our correspondent was implying some kind of inadmissability of the "monumental" in performance of Bach, without defining what he means by the term.

For me, as examples, the 'Kyrie', 'Sanctus' and 'Dona' of the BMM are the essence of "monumentalism" (even from just looking at the score, without attempting to define the term; and ofcourse, the BMM is generally recognised as one of the "monuments" of Western music).

Listening to these three movements in Hengelbrock again, I can see what you are saying; and from my point of view, Hengelbrock does seem to be working against the "monumental" nature of the music, especially in the Sanctus, where the 'micro-management' of the notes is quite evident. (Nevertheless, his 'Gratias' and 'Dona' are gloriously "monumental", again without attempting to define that term).

For my part, I want to imagine, for example, that I am observing the vast interior space under the dome of St. Peter's Cathedral, when I hear this 'Sanctus' - or however else one experiences transcendence; if this is anachronistic to Bach's intention, so be it. Or rather, obviously transcendence is Bach's intention, so the question is - by what performance style do we achieve it.

No doubt some find a sextet 'Sanctus' to be charming (but surely not 'transcendent'?); however, I do recall Rifkin commenting that the apparent lack of widespread interest in OVPP for "large" ("monumental"?) choruses was a financial barrier to his presentation of many such works in this manner. (BTW, how many OVPP BMM's have been recorded?)

John Pike wrote (November 20, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I have just received Hengelbrock's MBM. Superb! One of the best I know. I particularly like the way he has chosen tempi and other stylistic aspects to suit the words. Take the very slow tempo of the opening Kyrie Eleison! One is really left with a sense of the sinner weighed down with a sense of guilt and begging for mercy....very powerful. And the Dona Nobis Pacem again at the end...again, a very strong sense of a desire for peace.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 21, 2004):
[To John Pike] I'm planning to pick that one up someday, based on this and other enthusiastic reviews here. Meanwhile, I'm very much enjoying Fasolis, Junghaenel, Parrott, Rifkin, Leonhardt, both the Herreweghes, both the Harnoncourts, Klemperer, Scherchen, and some others...it's great to have multiple ways to hear this piece!

John Pike wrote (November 22, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] You should be able to pick it up very cheaply on Amazon. It cost me less than UKP 9.


 

Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | 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
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]

Thomas Hengelbrock: Short Biography | Balthasar-Neumann-Chor | Freiburger Barockorchester | Recordings | BWV 232 - Hengelbrock | BWV 243a - Hengelbrock

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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Last update: żNovember 28, 2004 ż20:40:45