Notes and Editorial Reviews
Winner of the 1983 Gramophone Award for best choral recording. An oddly unsettling, but ultimately very stimulating, experience.
Undoubtedly the most controversial recent record in the baroque-music field has been that of Bach's B minor Mass conducted by Joshua Rifkin (Nonesuch digital D79036, 3/83), He has re-edited the work on the basis of Bach's separate parts rather than the score—a number of small details emerge differently, such as coulés semiquavers in "Domine Deus"—and put into practice his theory that it should be interpreted with a single voice to each part. (His extremely lengthy introductory essay includes a defence of this thesis, which however has not gone unchallenged in some quarters.)
On hearing the opening of the Kyrie, one's reaction may be to recall that conductor who asked for a solo double-bass to play the start of the trio of the Scherzo of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony so that it should be nice and clear; but the truth is that we have become so conditioned to a massive conception of Bach's Mass that this intimate approach, with its conspicuous gain in textural clarity, and its sometimes startling fast speeds, proves an oddly unsettling, but ultimately very stimulating, experience. The instrumentalists are outstandingly good, and the voices mainly very agreeable (though their intonation is not always impeccable); but in choruses like the Gloria and the second Credo Bach's jubilant writing, with trumpets, still seems (to me at least) to demand more sheer weight of vocal tone, even though the engineers have produced a surprisingly successful balance, I'm not sure that I go along with all Rifkin's well-reasoned arguments, but I strongly recommend this vitally performed radical experiment to all those with open minds.
-- Gramophone [9/1983
Works on This Recording
Mass in B minor, BWV 232 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Judith Nelson (Soprano),
Julianne Baird (Soprano),
Jeffrey Dooley (Countertenor),
Frank Hoffmeister (Tenor),
Jan Opalach (Bass)
Written: 1747-49; Leipzig, Germany
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