WORKS: Mass in B minor
PERFORMER: Barbara Schlick (soprano), Kai Wessel (alto), Guy de Mey (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass)Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98478-2 DDD
This ‘greatest musical work of all times and all nations’ was compiled almost haphazardly, largely from earlier music with different, even secular, words. For Bach, such adaptation was no less honestly creative than composing new music.
The 27 Amsterdam choral voices are a model of translucent clarity. Technically they are breathtaking, for instance in the cruelly un-vocal ‘Cum sancto’ fugue. Koopman always shapes their lines meaningfully: all 43 utterances of ‘Credo’ ring through the texture (alpha-numerically, CREDO=43; by chance?). Lightness in the triumphal choruses is at the expense of some exuberance and recording balance is bottom-light here. Bach colours each solo differently and they are beautifully sung. Wessel does duty as both second soprano and alto, and his ‘Christe eleison’ with Schlick, intended for two matching sopranos/ boys, is a novel and effective sonority. Klaus Mertens deserves special mention for his superbly controlled phrasing – and a hearty low F sharp – in ‘Et in spiritum sanctum’.
The choice of the first version of the duet ‘Et in unum’ is in curious defiance of Bach’s intentions. It incorporates the words ‘Et incarnatus est’ which, on second thoughts, Bach transferred to an added chorus – which Koopman also includes! George Pratt