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Bach: Missae Breves / Pygmalion

Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Alpha Productions   Catalog #: 130   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sydney FierroMagid El-BushraEmiliano Gonzalez-ToroEugenie Warnier
Conductor:  Raphaël Pichon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pygmalion
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Missae breves: in g, BWV 234; in A, BWV 235. KUHNAU-BACH Der Gerechte kommt um Raphaël Pichon, cond; Eugénie Warnier (sop); Magid El-Bushra (alt); Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro (ten); Sydney Fierro (bs); Pygmalion O & Ch (period instruments) ALPHA 130 (61:39 Text and Translation)

Read more /> Is it my imagination, or are Bach’s short masses hot ? Long neglected, they have been turning up with startling, though not unwelcome, regularity. Ton Koopman included them in the last volume of his cantata edition and subsequently reissued them in a two-disc set devoted to Bach’s Latin music. Meanwhile, Hänssler reissued Helmuth Rilling’s versions, and Harmonia Mundi brought out a newly recorded set by Konrad Junghänel and Cantus Cölln. Alpha’s new offering is, to be sure, half a loaf, but we can and should hope that Pichon and Pygmalion will soon finish the job. All this together may not sound like a stampede, except in the context of the scant attention paid to Bach’s short masses over the years. Consider that for its complete Bach Edition, Brilliant made new recordings of all the sacred cantatas, but picked up a 30-year-old set (by Martin Flämig) of short masses.

The period-instruments ensemble (chorus and orchestra) Pygmalion is new to me, but Raphaël Pichon, its founder and conductor, has an impeccable pedigree, having sung under both Ton Koopman and Jordi Savall. Pygmalion is made up of young professionals, based in Paris, and dedicated to exploring early music. Unfortunately, the notes for this disc have a lot to say about Breugel the Elder’s painting The Fall of the Rebel Angels (which is not reproduced), but precious little about Pichon and/or Pygmalion. If this is a debut album, it’s an impressive one. If not, it is still impressive. Pichon attacks the opening chorus of the G-Minor Mass with an infectious swagger. In a word, it swings—enough so that it had me wondering whether old Bach had really chosen the right music (the opening chorus of Cantata 102) for the text. It’s a world away from the Kyrie of the B-Minor Mass. One can only assume that Bach approached this setting with all the assurance of the righteous, confident of God’s and Jesus’s mercy. But it makes for a memorable listening experience. (By coincidence, John Eliot Gardiner’s recording of Cantata 102 came to me at the same time as this disc, and I must say that Pichon’s way with this movement compares favorably with Sir John’s.) Pygmalion’s choir (20 voices) is alert and flexible, and his orchestra flawless in its execution. The soloists, all previously unknown to me, are impressive as well. One need not lose sleep over the future of Bach performances.

Pichon begins his disc with a rarity, the motet Der Gerechte kommt um . Tagged doubtful in The New Grove Bach Family , and not mentioned in the Oxford Companion , it is thought to be Bach’s reworking of an a cappella motet by his predecessor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau. However, Rilling, who included this piece in his two-disc set of Bach’s motets (Hänssler), casts doubt on that hypothesis, claiming that Kuhnau’s motet, Tristus est anima mea , was itself an arrangement of an earlier work by a person or persons yet unknown. (The only other recording that I know of Der Gerechte kommt um is in the collection “Motets by the Bach Dynasty” on Hungaroton 31549, which is a terrific disc, by the way.)

So, a fine disc with splendid performances of formerly under-appreciated music by J. S. Bach, coupled with a mysterious bonus track. It’s a keeper. Let’s hope for more.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Missa brevis in A major, BWV 234 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sydney Fierro (Baritone), Magid El-Bushra (Alto), Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro (Tenor),
Eugenie Warnier (Soprano)
Conductor:  Raphaël Pichon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pygmalion
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Missa brevis in G minor, BWV 235 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Eugenie Warnier (Soprano), Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro (Tenor), Sydney Fierro (Baritone),
Magid El-Bushra (Alto)
Conductor:  Raphaël Pichon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pygmalion
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Dem Gerechten muss das Licht, BWV 195 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sydney Fierro (Baritone), Magid El-Bushra (Alto), Eugenie Warnier (Soprano),
Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro (Tenor)
Conductor:  Raphaël Pichon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pygmalion
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1737; Leipzig, Germany 

Sound Samples

Der Gerechte kommt um, BWV deest
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Kyrie (Chorus)
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Gloria (Chorus)
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Gratias (Bass)
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Domine Fili (Alto)
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Qui tollis (Tenor)
Mass in G minor, BWV 235: Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Kyrie (Chorus, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Gloria (Chorus, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Domine Deus (Bass)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Qui tollis peccata mundi (Soprano)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Quoniam tu solus (Alto)
Mass in A major, BWV 234: Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)

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