WORKS: Mass in B minor
PERFORMER: Julianne Baird, Judith Nelson, Nancy Zylstra, Jennifer Lane, Zoila Muñoz, Steven Rickards, Patrick Romano, William Sharp, James Weaver; American Baroque Soloists/Jeffrey Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7194-2 DDD
Bach’s Mass in B minor has been called ‘probably the greatest musical work of art that the world has ever seen’. It’s certainly a magnificent example of late Baroque grandeur, and contains some of Bach’s most exuberant contrapuntal writing, yet it is also a curiously patchwork piece. Although parts of the Mass were composed in 1724 and 1733, it was only in 1749 that Bach compiled a final version, often reusing music he had previously written for very different works. The reason for this remains a mystery, since the Mass was not performed in his lifetime.
Jeffrey Thomas and his American Baroque Soloists favour period instruments, but depart from some other ‘authentic’ practitioners in using up to three singers and players to a part. There are moments when the choruses sound a little blurred at the edges, although this may be due as much to the soft-focus acoustic as to the number of singers. For the most part, however, this is an enjoyable, if low-key, performance, capturing the more intimate, melodic qualities of Bach’s music and including several fine solo contributions, notably from Nancy Zylstra, Patrick Romano and flautist Sandra Miller in ‘Domine Deus’ and Jennifer Lane in a poignant ‘Agnus Dei’. Graham Lock