JS Bach Mass in B minor

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach Mass in B minor
WORKS: Mass in B Minor
PERFORMER: Dorothee Mields, Hana Blažíková (sopranos), Damien Guillon (countertenor), Thomas Hobbs (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass),; Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe


With over 50 current recordings, it’s a challenge to produce a distinctive B Minor Mass. Philippe Herreweghe’s account proves outstanding. The Collegium Vocale Gent, from which the soloists are drawn, is numerous enough to create warm lines, contrasting with the crisper tone of the instruments – I’ve never heard Bach’s counterpoint more transparent. The balance between blend and individuality is superb, their empathy palpable; soprano Dorothee Mields matches Hana Blažiková in a captivating ‘Christe eleison’, and engages with countertenor Damien Guillon in perfect canonic unity illustrating ‘Et in unum’ (‘one Lord Jesus Christ’). In the Benedictus, Thomas Hobbs sustains an exemplary even tone from top to bottom of his range. The solo flute here remains sadly anonymous in the frustratingly uninformative booklet notes, as does the violinist negotiating the obbligato arabesques of ‘Adoramus te’ and the impeccable horn soloist in the aria ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’. All the principals deserve to be named.

Recording balance is excellent, though bass Peter Kooij is sometimes concealed within the dense thicket of bassoons and continuo in ‘Quoniam’. The higher tessitura of ‘Et in Spiritum’ suits him better, and is beautifully fluent and lilting.

One strikingly successful Herreweghe trick is sustaining a common pulse through sections and movements. The ardent opening Kyrie flows naturally into the following fugue; he retains a sense of integrity between the triple-time Gloria and the 4/4 of ‘Et in terra pax’; two Credos, one in curiously angular polyphony, the other a shout of affirmation, hang together as a single declaration of faith. Its very moderation makes this a wonderful recording – highly recommended. 


George Pratt