JS Bach: Mass in B minor

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LABELS: Accentus
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Mass in B minor
WORKS: Mass in B minor
PERFORMER: Reglint Bühler (soprano), Susanne Krumbiegel (mezzo soprano), Susanne Langner (alto), Martin Lattke (tenor), Markus Flaig (bass); Thomanerchor Leipzig; Freiburger Barockorchester/Georg Christoph Biller


If Bach had actually performed this final statement of his life’s work and creed, it most likely would have sounded very much as it does here, in the organ gallery of St Thomas’s Church, Leipzig. He would, though, have envied the scale – 50 voices – of the all-male choir and, doubtless, the rehearsal time to hone the performance.

The Thomanerchor is superb. Trebles match the confidence and facility of any adult choir, without a hint of that vocal fragility, endearing but unnerving, which often characterises boys’ voices. The Freiburger Barockorchester matches their fluency and stylistic sensitivity, from the violins’ impeccable unison in ‘Christe Eleison’, through the warm reed trio accompanying the bass in ‘Et in spiritum sanctum’, to the blaze of trumpets – not a note astray in this live performance – of ‘Gloria’ and ‘Et resurrexit’ (where youthful choral basses throw off the cruelly angular complexities of ‘et iterum venturus est’ without a qualm).

In the arias, the communication between instruments and voices is striking – flute and muted violins in a dancing duet as tenor and soprano’s canon emphasises the two-in-one nature of ‘Domine Deus’ and ‘Domine Fili’; solo violin shaping delicate arabesques expressing the restrained joy of ‘Laudamus’.

Camera-work is relevant and unfussy but, sadly, the listener is placed too far back in St Thomas’s reverberant acoustic. The narrowed performance angle creates little sense of stereo, let alone the three-dimensional depth of surround-sound. Distance swallows up brighter harmonics, so individual vocal and instrumental colours tend towards a uniform grey. But the performance itself matches any other on disc.


George Pratt