Now presented complete, Raphaël Pichon and Pygmalion’s exceptional Lutheran Mass performances, in this often unjustly neglected genre, remind us of Bach’s telling psychological shift in the early 1730s from ephemeral duty to collating collections of music for posterity. The four parody Missae breves, comprised of a Kyrie and Gloria only, in the north German way, were compiled by Bach from cantata movements he clearly admired and felt could be productively recycled. Then there’s also the Missa of 1733 – the work which Bach offered to the new Elector of Saxony in search of wider recognition and which was to become the blueprint for that summa anthology, the Mass in B minor – now assembled with the others and strengthening the identity of Bach’s Mass oeuvre further.
Bachs Passions and other great choral works in performances with the Staatskapelle Dresden under the masterly direction of Peter Schreier who also sings the role of the Evangelist. Schreiers aim in Bach interpretation is to bring new lightness without following the full dictates of authentic performance, and in this he succeeds superbly. The recording is first rate, with the choral forces well separated.
With its highly complex and artful opening chorus, the cantata Ein feste Burg is one of the highlights among Bach's cantatas. With the Kammerchor Stuttgart under Frieder Bernius and the soloists Sarah Wegener, David Allsopp, Thomas Hobbs and Peter Harvey, this masterpiece finds a more than adequate recording here. The cantata is supplemented by the Missa brevis in G minor, BWV 235, one of the four Lutheran masses Bach composed at the end of the 1730s.
The Dunedin Consort's recording of Bach's Mass in B Minor revisits the spectacular individual virtuosity that made the Messiah recording so successful. This is the premiere recording of the work in the new Breitkopf edition, edited by Joshua Rifkin, a leading thinker in authentic period performance, who fully endorses John Butt's interpretation.
The sound world of Bach’s last great Mass has changed radically in recent decades; one-to-a-part performance practice is, as conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen puts it, “changing our entire notion of Bach’s acoustic universe”. This bold claim is amply proven in an account of dazzling transparency, dance-like rhythms and utter clarity. Sometimes the balance seems not quite right, for example when organ continuo dominates, but some superb ensemble numbers pit voices against virtuosic instruments so each seems to outdo the other in joyous exuberance. The five soloists complement each other well, and the addition of just five extra singers is all that is needed to explode Bach’s universal vision into life.
It was The Bach Choir (under Sir David Willcocks) which played an important role in helping rehabilitate the Missa Sabrinensis, and this fine recording with David Hill marks a significant new chapter in the work’s performance history.