WORKS: Mass in C, BWV Anh. 25; Mass in C minor, BWV Anh. 26; Magnificat in A minor, BWV Anh. 21
PERFORMER: Dorothee Mields (soprano), Henning Voss (countertenor), Henning Kaiser (tenor), Ralf Grobe (bass); I Febiarmonici, Alsfeld Vocal Ensemble/Wolfgang Helbich
CATALOGUE NO: 999 834-2
This disc brings together two Masses which Bach copied at different times in his life, and a Magnificat once thought to be a product of his pen but which in 1982 was identified as a piece by his slightly older contemporary, Melchior Hoffmann. The C minor Mass is by the Neapolitan composer Francesco Durante, though when Bach copied it in 1727, he made substantial changes to the structuring of the two Kyrie sections as well as adding a duet apparently of his own for the ‘Christe eleison’. Bach copied the other Mass, in C major, during the 1740s and this, too, clearly has an Italian provenance, though the composer remains unidentified. Peter Wollny, the author of an informative and scholarly note, places it around 1720, on the grounds that elements of the modern Neapolitan style are completely lacking. I’m inclined to disagree, having found hints of the melodic mannerisms which occur in such pieces as Pergolesi’s celebrated Stabat mater.
While there are some pleasing features in these performances, above all in the singing of Dorothee Mields, much of the choral contribution by the Alsfeld Vocal Ensemble is undistinguished; and the same applies to the instrumental playing, which is often scrappy in ensemble and sour in tone. But the programme is sufficiently interesting to warrant a modest welcome, and the little German Magnificat, a delightful work for soprano, flute, two violins and continuo, comes off well. Nicholas Anderson