Bach, Js: Mass in B minor

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Mass in B minor
PERFORMER: Bethany Seymour (soprano), Sally Bruce-Payne (soprano/alto), Jason Darnell, Joshua Ellicott (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass); Yorkshire Bach Choir; Yorkshire Baroque Soloists/dir. Peter Seymour


Recordings of the B minor Mass range from the 180 voices of the Vienna Singverein under Herbert von Karajan (1952), to one-to-a-part Joshua Rifkin and others from 1982 to the present. Reverting to a real ‘chorus’ invokes a warm sense of nostalgia; there are 57 voices here, though to their credit they are so supple and crisp that they often sound considerably fewer, comfortably balanced by only 13 strings and wind. The Gloria is delightfully sprung, as are the Sanctus and its contrasting ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and ‘Osanna’, all three of which Seymour binds cleverly together with a common tempo; the sense of uninhibited joy and praise is exhilarating. Only in the extreme choral complexities of ‘Cum sancto’ does the choir seem to falter a touch.

Peter Harvey is in fine voice in Quoniam with Roger Montgomery’s bold horn tone. Other soloists are more recently on the scene. Bethany Seymour’s glorious soprano is subtle but unaffected, especially in some striking ornaments – she soars to a top A at the end of the ‘Laudamus’. Sally Bruce-Payne is remarkably countertenorish, entrancing in a slow, tender Agnus Dei. Seymour capitalises on a plethora of tenor graduates from York University, with different voices for their two solos.


While I remain captivated by John Butt’s inventively contrasting vocal forces (Linn), for a choral B Minor Mass, this excellent performance ranks among the best. George Pratt