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Bach: Mass In B Minor / Rilling, Crook, Lipovsek, Sonntag, Schmidt

Bach,J.s. / Sonntag / Lipovsek / Crook / Schmidt
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 11050   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ulrike SonntagMarjana LipovsekHoward CrookAndreas Schmidt
Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei StuttgartStuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Mass in b Helmuth Rilling, cond; Ulrike Sonntag (sop); Marjana Lipov?ek (alt); Howard Crook (ten); Andeas Schmidt (bs); Gächinger Kantorei; Stuttgart CO PROFIL DCD PH11050 (2 CDs: 114:29 Text, no Translations)

Helmuth Rilling made this recording in 1988, not long after he had completed his epic Bach cantata series. The Nikolaus Harnoncourt/Gustav Leonhardt cantata project was limping toward the finish line. The period-instrument tide was gaining momentum, but it was not yet the Read more tsunami that it was to become. Joshua Rifkin was already on the scene, but he was just a ripple on the top of the wave. How times have changed! Rilling’s cantata recordings suggest that he was not unaware of or resistant to the coming surge, but this performance offers us a fairly traditional vision of the B-Minor Mass. The Gächinger Kantorei provides a full, smoothly blended choral sound, matched by the expertly played modern instruments of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. Unfortunately, the minimal documentation does not name any of the participants other than the four soloists, so the horn player in the Quoniam and the flutist in the Benedictus, to cite two examples, toil commendably but anonymously. The four soloists, too, are in warm, full voice—and willing to unleash their fine vibratos. Those who have reservations about the countertenor sound will enjoy the full-throated singing of Marjana Lipov?ek, who doubles as alto and second soprano.

Rilling establishes his agenda in the opening Kyrie. The long-held final chord of the majestic introduction, the deliberate unfolding of the great fugue, and its expanded cadence are portents of a monumental interpretation of the Mass. This is not a Mass for clock watchers. Its total running is a little longer than all of the recent versions I’ve heard (though shorter than earlier ones by Neville Marriner, Robert Shaw, and Karl Richter). Rilling’s overall pace is stately. It never drags, but it does convey the seriousness of the undertaking. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of energy in the extroverted moments—Et expect resurrectionem is a case in point. The transition from the Crucifixus to Et resurrexit is explosive. Stuttgart’s trumpeters would have made Bach’s father, Ambrosius, also a trumpeter, proud. The final Dona nobis pacem brings the Mass to a fitting conclusion.

There’s much to enjoy in this performance, especially for listeners with a more traditional outlook. I enthused over Rilling’s later B-Minor Mass in Fanfare 23:5. I like this one, too, but I’ll stick with John Eliot Gardiner’s historically informed version on Archiv as my benchmark.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Mass in B minor, BWV 232 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ulrike Sonntag (Soprano), Marjana Lipovsek (Mezzo Soprano), Howard Crook (Tenor),
Andreas Schmidt (Baritone)
Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-49; Leipzig, Germany 

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