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Bach in Notre-Dame de Paris / Nelson, Ziesak, DiDonato

Bach / Ziesak / Didonato / Taylor / Corti / Nelson
Release Date: 01/16/2007 
Label:  Erato (Dvd)   Catalog #: 70636  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dietrich HenschelPaul AgnewRuth ZiesakDaniel Taylor,   ... 
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral EnsembleMaitrise de Notre-Dame de Paris
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Mass in b & John Nelson, cond; Ruth Ziesak (sop); Joyce DiDonato (sop); Daniel Taylor (ct); Paul Agnew (ten); Dietrich Henschel (bs); Maîtrise de Notre-Dame de Paris (Nicole Corti, dir); Paris Orchestral Ens VIRGIN 70636 (DVD: 153:00)

& Interviews with John Nelson and the Archbishop of Paris; documentary on music and liturgy at Notre-Dame

The cover title of this DVD is “Bach in Read more Notre-Dame de Paris.” Don’t be alarmed by its listed running time; the performance of the Mass itself takes a little less than two hours—par for the course. The balance of the disc is given to three interviews, a verbal introduction to the B-Minor Mass, and 19.5 minutes of music and liturgy from Notre-Dame de Paris (plus, of course, credits). Nelson’s tempos are fashionably brisk. Modern instruments are employed but played with a thorough appreciation for historically informed practice. The choir’s détaché phrasing in the great opening “Kyrie” may strike some listeners (including this one) as an unnecessary affectation, but it doesn’t prevail throughout the remainder of the Mass. The mixed choir may be unfashionably large (38 voices), but it is superbly disciplined and obviously committed. The five splendid soloists are all in top form. Nelson’s direction is intensely expressive and meticulously shaped, building to climactic moments that are truly thrilling. The ineffable transition from the “Crucifixus” to the “Et resurrexit,” by any measure one of the supreme inspirations in all music, will bring a lump to your throat.

The B-Minor Mass was a masterful creation, and so was Notre-Dame de Paris, the site of the concert captured in this DVD. The presentation, which is identified as “A film by Olivier Simonnet,” takes full advantage of the venue. Simonnet’s imaginative use of sightlines and camera angles maintains visual interest throughout. It was a nice touch to have the instrumental soloists stand during the arias. I was surprised to see that only five camera operators are listed in the credits. While watching the performance, I had the impression that Simonnet had deployed as many cameras as the NFL does in a Super Bowl telecast. All that’s missing are the sideline interviews, play-by-play commentary, and instant replays. And the hype. Actually we have the sideline interviews, but they are shown on separate tracks, not during time-outs. In a sense, conductor Nelson provides running commentary, but he does so non-verbally. Replays are possible, of course, on a do-it-yourself-basis. What we don’t have here is a winner and a loser. Insofar as this DVD is concerned, there are no losers. When all is said and done, everyone, participants and viewers alike, will emerge from this adventure as a winner.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Mass in B minor, BWV 232 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dietrich Henschel (Baritone), Paul Agnew (Tenor), Ruth Ziesak (Soprano),
Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Maitrise de Notre-Dame de Paris
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-49; Leipzig, Germany 

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