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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 Masaaki Suzuki

V-1

Bach: Mass in B minor

Mass in B minor BWV 232

Masaaki Suzuki

Bach Collegium Japan

Sopranos: Carolyn Sampson, Rachel Nicholls; Alto: Robin Blaze; Tenor: Gerd Türk; Bass: Peter Kooy

BIS 1701/02

Mar 2007

2-SACD / TT: 107:31

Recorded at the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan.
Buy this album at:
2-SACD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

H-moll mass

Fabrizio Dinacci wrote (October 30, 2001):
Next friday at S. Ceclia Auditorium, I will have the very lucky opportunity to listen Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan playing the h-moll mass. I know just his SJP, and it's fantastic for me, but I'm not really an expert. Where must I focus my attention? Which are the biggest difference between Suzuki's and other's performances?

Piotr Jaworski wrote (October 31, 2001):
[To Fabrizio Dinacci] You're really the luckiest guy on this List!!!
I beg you to write everything you will notice, learn and hear during that evening. Write about the soloists, music, performance - everything. I can only hope that B minor Mass as recorded by BCJ and Masaaki Suzuki will be soon released by their record company - BIS.

As for the SJP, I found the best response to your query - review posted in the early April 1999 (to the "old" BR List) by our outstanding friend and one of foremost reviewers - and now unfortunately absent from this List - Ryan Michero from Dallas, Texas. You can find below his fantastic posting - sparkling and informative, simply unforgettable. From my side I have nothing more to add. Fully second his conclusion.
______________________

*** BEWARE! Another one of Ryan's really long reviews follows. ***

Hello again, Bach friends!

Well, I've spent some of my spare time this week preparing another entry in my Suzuki review series for you all. In fact, this is a special review because I've been listening to Suzuki's new St. John Passion recording and comparing it to my previous favorite St. John recording by John Eliot Gardiner. And I'm ready to write about it just in time for Good Friday!

As you all know, I'm an admirer of Suzuki's ongoing complete cantata series. I've been excited at the prospect of Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan recording Bach's larger vocal works, yet I wasn't sure that they could compete with the more starry major-label recordings of the vocal works. To be more specific, I have loved Gardiner's recordings of the Passions, the B-Minor Mass, and the Christmas Oratorio for a few years now, and I thought Gardiner's St. John would be tough to beat.

I thought wrong! It's not that Suzuki's version easily defeats Gardiner's; on the contrary, I think Gardiner's recording is equally accomplished. However, Suzuki's version has moments of inspiration and performers of such great talent that Gardiner's version can seem lackluster in comparison.

Gardiner and Suzuki take a similar approach to performing the piece. Both use a smallish choir and an orchestra of period instruments. Both prefer women to boys as sopranos. And both conductors are dynamic interpreters of Bach's vocal music, emphasizing the inherent drama of the work. Gardiner is perhaps a better technician than Suzuki, fine-tuning his performers to get the best out of them. Yet, Suzuki seems to have more range and subtlety, while Gardiner, in spite of his musicality and attention to detail, sometimes misses the deeper emotions of the piece.

Suzuki performs the fourth version of the Passion that Bach compiled, which included a notated harpsichord continuo part in addition to organ and cello (Gardiner only uses organ and cello). In this recording, Suzuki himself plays the majority of the harpsichord parts while conducting. At first I thought the harpsichord in the continuo might be distracting, but as the recording went on, I saw that, while it is not always used, when it is used it adds so much nuance and drama to the piece. It helps with the transitions between "turba" choruses and recitative, it adds punch to dramatic declamations, and it participates in the dialogue between singers and instruments.

Also, while Gardiner's version has a clear, analytical sound, allowing you to hear much of the counterpoint clearly, Suzuki's sound is fuller, warmer, and more reverberant. Sometimes the reverberance hinders Suzuki, as in the opening chorus, which tends to sound a bit muddy. Gardiner is preferable here, the dissonant oboe lines cutting chillingly through the texture. Yet sometimes, the Suzuki's softer sound works beautifully, adding a radiance to the music that is otherwise impossible to achieve. The BCJ's chorales, for instance, are often made more moving by their lush, full sound.

The Monteverdi Choir under Gardiner is obviously a group of tremendously gifted, disciplined singers, and their choral singing is often thrilling. I especially like their distinctive, golden soprano section. The BCJ choir is not as technically impressive, but I do admire their more homogenous, pure sound where the Monteverdi Choir can sound blustery. Both choirs make excellent impressions on these recordings.

What really makes or breaks a Passion performance, though, is the quality of the solo singers, especially the tenor Evangelist. In almost all cases, and to my initial surprise, Suzuki has the upper hand. The bass for the arias and the roles of Peter and Pilate on Suzuki's recording is Peter Kooij, and he does a wonderful job. There is no contest between Kooij, with his full voice and expressive intensity, and Cornelius Hauptmann on Gardiner's version, who sounds rather weak in comparison. Kooij has what may be the most magical moment on the album: the arioso, No. 19, beginning "Betrachte, meine Seel". It is absolutely breathtaking.

Suzuki has the edge in terms of the alto voice too, but not by much. Yoshikazu Mera sings sings with great confidence and ability, making the most of the two arias he is given. His version of No. 7, "Von den Stricken meiner Suenden", blows Michael Chance's verion away. However, both singers give incredibly powerful performances of "Es ist vollbracht". Suzuki's is slower in the first section, more thunderous in the second; Gardiner's is generally more minimalist and austere throughout. Both linger in the memory long after they are finished. In the end, I slightly prefer Mera because of the warmth and tonal variety in his voice.

Gardiner beats Suzuki with his sopranos, though. Although Ingrid Schmithuesen sings with elegance and a pure tone in her two arias, she can't beat Gardiner's singers. Ruth Holton's charming, boyish voice enriches "Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudigen Schritten" (aided by wonderfully articulate flute playing), and Nancy Argenta's touching performance of "ZerflieBe, mein Herze" almost makes it the emotional centerpiece of Gardiner's recording.

The edge goes back to Suzuki when it comes to tenors, though. Makoto Sakurada is a fine singer, bringing out the nervousness and fear of "Ach, mein Sinn, wo willt du endlich hin" without being annoying, and bringing great tenderness to "Mein Herz, indem die ganze Welt". Neill Archer sounds blustery in comparison.

I've saved the best for last. Gerd Tuerk is a tenor I've admired before in Suzuki's recordings, but I was wholly unprepared for the griperformance he gives as the Evangelist in this St. John Passion. I admire Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and he really does a good job in Gardiner's recording. But he just doesn't sing like an Evangelist! He sounds like a good singer singing the part of the Evangelist. Tuerk, in contrast, is completely inside his role. He sounds like an excited narrator eager to tell you his story. His voice is clear and alert, and he adds great immediacy to his lines. Additionally, Suzuki allows him to linger on Bach's passages of tone painting, letting him wring every last bit of emotion out of them.

Tuerk's tour de force performance coupled with Suzuki's electric conducting make the recitative passages some of the most exciting, crucial moments of the work. All the performers involved in these passages, from Suzuki at the harpsichord to the chorus, seem inspired by the story, making listening to this recording a very gripping and moving experience. I've never been so touched by the moment Jesus gives one of his disciples to his mother as a son, never been so frightened by the crowd's cries to crucify Jesus and the earthquake at his death. Even Gardiner, acclaimed as master of drama in Bach's Passions, sounds dry in these passages compared to Suzuki.

Now, Gardiner is no slouch. As I said, I prefer Gardiner's sopranos and often his choruses to Suzuki's. I would not want to be without Gardiner's version. But I must say that I now have a new favorite recording of the St. John Passion.

Now, I wonder what Suzuki can do with the St. Matthew... Or the B-Minor Mass...

Ryan Michero
Dallas, Texas

 

Suzuki's B minorl mass performed in Rome

Fabrizio Dinacci wrote (November 4, 2001):
First of all, I must tell you I'm not really an expert, and even my English is bad, but I must try to write what follows.

Friday night was a great night at the Auditorium S. Cecilia in Rome, perhaps my most beautiful experience in live music listenings. I too now hope that B minor Mass as recorded by BCJ and Masaaki Suzuki will be soon released.

Two days before, I was in another theatre in Rome to listen Ton Koopman in the performance of Mozart's Requiem, and it was a great, huge delusion, orchestra out of time, first violin often out of tune (expecially in a Serenata precceding the Requiem), 'Tuba mirum' completely wrong et cetera. So I thaught that cd is really another world in comparison with live performing.

But it's not true! Listening Suzuki's B minor mass, I learnt the opposite: when the performers are so wonderful, there's no difference!

First of all, the balancing of sound volumes: it was alwas perfect, always. It was always possible to follow the distinct parts of counterpoints, the instrumental and the vocal ones. In a live performance, I never heardt the trumpets so precise: really if I closed the eyes, I could think it was a cd!

Particularly the Soprano-Contralto duets where incredible: perhaps it's possible to listen best singers than Yukari Nonoshita and Mutsumi Hatano, but I think that there is a huge work to obtain such an integrate performance. I can't remember duets perfect like those. And I'll never forget the Hatano's 'Agnus dei'. Tenor Gerd Turk was excellent on his own, and only Peter Kooij had some difficulties, expecially during the 'Quoniam tu solus sanctus'. The horn 'da caccia' was too louder than him.

Two curiosities.
The first: in my cd with von Karajan as conductor, in the 'Benedictus', there is a violin in duet with the tenor, while Suzuki choose a flute. As reported by Alberto Basso in 'Frau Musika', this piece was composed in 1747-49 and in the score there is no indication of the instrument (but he thinks that Bach had in his mind a flute). Like in AoF!!! Which instrument is used in other versions?
The second: BCJ has some difficulties in pronouncig latin words. Not 'Kyrie' but 'Hhyrie'; not 'Qui tollis' but 'Kvi ciolles'; and so on. But it's really a detail.

Peter Bright wrote (November 4, 2001):
[To Fabrizio Dinacci] Thanks so much for the review of Suzuki & BCJ's performance of the B minor mass - it must have been wonderful. Today I listened to Vol. 14 of the Suzuki cantatas series - SO beautiful. While we are on the subject, does anyone know of a release date for vol. 15 in the UK? - I believe it was released in some regions (Sweden, Japan?) in September... At least I think that was the release date provided on the BIS internet site.

Piotr Jaworski wrote (November 5, 2001):
[To Fabrizio Dinacci] You're indeed the Lucky One! ;-)
What can't be said about the rest - us. The B minor Mass will be recorded in 2003(!), so we will have to be really very, very patient. I'd bet that this will be one of the finest recordings of the Mass.

 

BCJ schedule

Bob Henderson wrote (January 5, 2004):
[To Richard Sams] Thanks for the update on BCJ. Any word on when the BMM will be recorded and issued?

Richard Sams wrote (January 5, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] I have just phoned the office of Bach Collegium Japan and they tell me that Suzuki/BCJ plan to record the B Minor Mass by 2006, so I am afraid you will have to wait a while.

 

Bach Collegium Japan

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 24, 2011):
A touching yet mixed review of the Bach Collegium Japan's performance of the Mass in B Minor in New York:
In a Mass, a Cradle of Consolation for Japan by Anthony Tommasini, Published: March 23, 2011 (NY Times)

Glen Armstrong wrote (March 24, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Althoug Doug's link didn't work for me, I read it directly from the NYT .
In a Mass, a Cradle of Consolation for Japan by Anthony Tommasini, Published: March 23, 2011 (NY Times)

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 24, 2011):
[To Glen Armstrong] Apparently the baroque trumpets were having a very difficult time in some parts of the piece. Not surprising.

I know when JEG recorded one of the videos he made with DG Archiv (the one where they recorded the music in EMI Abbey Road studios), the first trumpet player hit a few bad notes and it required several takes to get it perfect.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 25, 2011):
[To Glen Armstrong] I found that link, from Glenís second post, to be the easiest direct access from my archaic system.

From the review:

<That smaller hall was actually a more appropriate space for the piece. We all love Carnegie Hall. But sometimes the sound of the Bach Collegium Japan seemed a little small in the auditorium and lacked resonance, especially during some of the arias accompanied by fewer instruments.>

For a balanced perspective on the Suzuki sound, check out any of his recorded performances from his home turf, where reducing (rather than lack of) resonance seems to have been the technical challenge.

<We all love Carnegie Hall.> Written like a true (or transplanted?) New Yorker. For a more balanced and detailed perspective on the sordid details beneath public proclamations of love, including Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls, see for example: <All the Stops: the Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters> by Craig R. Whitney.

For my characteristic closing attempt at wit, the old USA joke:

Newcomer to NYC, asking directions: <How do you get to Carnegie Hall?>

New Yorker reply: <Practice, practice, practice.>

Arthur Robinson wrote (March 28, 2011):
Bach Collegium Japan in Carnegie Hall

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Apparently the baroque trumpets were having a very difficult time in some parts of the piece. Not surprising. >
I attended the Carnegie Hall concert.

The brass playing was uncertain, to put it politely, and the horn playing in the "Quoniam" left a lot to be desired, too.

The layout of the orchestra was anything but "authentic". The second violins were sitting next to the firsts, a la 20th century symphony orchestras, rather than antiphonally, and the two continuo instruments were all the way to one side (stage right).

Overall, the performance was fast, too fast for my taste.

I can't help it: I belthat, when Bach writes "Largo," he means "Largo", not "Andante con moto."

In his review, Tommasini made mention, with high praise, of the Herreweghe performance in Alice Tully Hall on March 1, 2009. I attended that concert, too. Without doubt, it was the most insensitive and willful interpretation of the Mass that I have ever heard.

I add that in the interests of full disclosure.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 28, 2011):
Arthur Robinson wrote:
< In his review, Tommasini made mention, with high praise, of the Herreweghe performance in Alice Tully Hall on March 1, 2009. I attended that concert, too. Without doubt, it was the most insensitive and willful interpretation of the Mass that I have ever heard. >
Tell us more!

Michael D. Costello wrote (March 28, 2011):
[To rthur Robinson] I heard the Collegium's performance at Valparaiso University last Saturday. The trumpets definitely had problems (as one person said, though, playing those parts on natural trumpets is walking the ultimate tightrope). The horn playing was superb!

All in all, it was an outstanding performance of the Mass in B minor. The choral sound was spectacular and the orchestra played extremely well. The tempi were right on for my taste.

My primary complaint is that the soprano soloist (Hana Blazikova) was difficult to hear. This does not change the fact that this was one of the finest performances I've ever heard of any Bach work.

 

New Yorker: The Book of Bach - April 11, 2011

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 6, 2011):
MUSICAL EVENTS: The Book of Bach - The Bach Collegium Japan, and John Eliot Gardiner by Alex Ross, APRIL 11, 2011 (The New Yorker)

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 7, 2011):
I enjoyed the description of the velvet cavern of Carnegie Hall. Perhaps it is just all those folks and their winter garments?

A few years back, when Bostons Jordan Hall was refurbished and repainted, we all complained that it had become too edgy. David Hoose, who conducted the BMM there a couple weeks ago, assured us back then: <Relax, it just needs to accumulate a few years of grime.> Or words to that effect. Seems he was correct.

His BMM was in the traditional range, with a chorus of about forty and orchestra somewhat less. Soloists audible and nicely balanced, with each other and with the chorus. An orchestra of enthisiastic Boston free-lancers is not to be missed, if you ever have the opportunity. Not exactly something to write to the world about, but I would not miss it for the world.

I was happy to see that Mr. Ross in the New Yorker categorized Gardiner and Suzuki, along with Herreweghe, as middle-path. I meant to mention that very point in the comments I just sent re Herrewehghe, in BWV 176.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 7, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I enjoyed the description of the velvet cavern of Carnegie Hall. Perhaps it is just all those folks and their winter garments? >
I've been there when it's warm, and so no- it's not the winter garments ;)

I think Carnegie Hall is one of the most perfect rooms I've ever heard an orchestra perform in. I heard J.E. Gardiner perform the Haydn "The Creation" a year ago. Beautiful performance.

In my hometown of Hampton Virginia, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), Odgen Hall was designed by the same architects and conductors would never cease to marvel at the venue's acoustic too. I've seen The Hanover Band with Roy Goodman and The Wallace Collection perform there, and absolutely stunning performances ;)

http://jphes.com/jphmain/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ogden-04.jpg has a photo.

Eric Basta wrote (April 7, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I believe Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan were consulted for the acoustics of Carnegie Hall - Adler was known for theater design with great acoustics (the Auditorium and Garrick theaters in Chicago for example). Adler and Sullivan also believed that true music lovers sat in cheaper seats so the acoustics in those seats were especially good.

 

Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Recordings:
Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | 2001-2010 | 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] | Bachís B minor Mass on Period Instruments [D. Satz] | Like Father, Like Son [B. Pehrson]

Masaaki Suzuki: Short Biography | Bach Collegium Japan
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Cantatas:
Suzuki - Vol. 2 | Suzuki - Vol. 5 | Suzuki - Vol. 8 | Suzuki - Vol. 9 | Suzuki - Vol. 10 | Suzuki - Vol. 11 | Suzuki - Vol. 12 | Suzuki - Vol. 13 | Suzuki - Vol. 14 | Suzuki - Vol. 15 | Suzuki - Vol. 16 | Suzuki - Vol. 17 | Suzuki - Vol. 18 | Suzuki - Vol. 19 | Suzuki - Vol. 20 | Suzuki - Vol. 21 | Suzuki - Vol. 22 | Suzuki - Vol. 23 | Suzuki - Vol. 24 | Suzuki - Vol. 25 | Suzuki - Vol. 26 | Suzuki - Vol.. 27 | Suzuki - Vol. 28 | Suzuki - Vol. 29 | Suzuki - Vol. 30 | Suzuki - Vol. 31 | Suzuki - Vol. 38 | Suzuki - Vol. 43 | Suzuki Secular - Vol. 1
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - M. Suzuki | BWV 243 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 245 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bachís Clavier-Ubung III from Masaaki Suzuki | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki | Bachís French Suites from Suzuki | Review: Partitas by Suzuki [McElhearn] | Suzukiís Partitas [Henderson] | Suzukiís Goldberg Variations
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Partitas BWV 825-830 - played by M. Suzuki
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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Last update: żApril 26, 2011 ż19:33:13