Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is one of those recordings in which you can practically hear the wheels of history turning along with the music. Legendary producer Walter Legge, responsible for signing the cream of Germany's musicians to contracts with EMI after the war, was working for one of the first times with his new star conductor, Herbert von Karajan, and the orchestra that was built for him to lead, the Philharmonia. The vocal soloists were a splendid team of fresh faces, including the great alto Kathleen Ferrier, the as yet unknown Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda and Legge's wife, soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.
The performance itself is powerful and exciting, with a sense of being on the crossroads. While some sections, such as the opening Kyrie, are slow and grand in the old tradition, the tempos in general are fleeter than was the custom for Bach at the time, and in fact the overall style is more "modern" sounding than most of Karajan's later Bach records. A further virtue is the high quality of the Philharmonia's first-chair players, most notably horn virtuoso Dennis Brain, who in the "Quoniam tu solus sanctus" reminds one just how beautiful that instrument can sound.