In 1962, Walter Legge invited Klemperer to make a recording of Bach's Mass in B minor for EMI. Although the Mass was a work that Klemperer was strongly drawn to, he nonetheless declined the offer. He was reluctant to conduct the work using the vast forces that were typically employed for performances as he believed it should be performed with numbers similar to those that Bach would have envisaged. Several years later he proposed a recording of the piece using "authentic" forces of a choir of 48 and under 50 instrumentalists - hence this recording.
…It was unusual for composers working in the Lutheran tradition to compose a Missa tota and Bach's motivations remain a matter of scholarly debate. The Mass was never performed in totality during Bach's lifetime; the first documented complete performance took place in 1859. Since the nineteenth century it has been widely hailed as one of the greatest compositions in history, and today it is frequently performed and recorded…
Two things distinguished Thomas Hengelbrock's 1996 recording of Bach's B minor Mass from the many other historically informed performances of the work released in the early digital era. Where many other conductors used small mixed choirs, Hengelbrock not only used the 26-voice Bathasar-Neumann-Chor, he drew his soloists from it. And where most other conductors tended exclusively toward quick tempos, Hengelbrock mixed things up, favoring fast tempos in joyful movements and slow tempos for painful movements.
Without doubt, the selecction of ones favourite recording within the vast sellection of interpretations of Bach's Mass in B-Minor is a difficult task. I have sung this mass and heard more than ten different recordings of this "miracle of mighty mountain range in the planet of music". For me, Hengelbrocks recording is by far the best one: first of all, Hengelbrocks interpretation is very inspired, with convincing and sometimes innovative tempi, as for instance in the opening Kyrie which, for the first time, I could sense as a funeral march; second, the chorus is brillant, for me even better than the international "stars" as for example the Monteverdi Choir; third, the Soloists wich are members of the choir, integrate perfectly in the whole picture of this master piece; fourth, the balance engineers have done an exceptional work which allows you to hear every detail of the orchestra, soloists and choirs in perfect balance.
This recording, made in 1969, presents Ricther's chorus of 80 and orchestra using modern instruments, considered truer to Bach's spirit at this time than the large-orchestra oratorio style It is great to see a large chorus of everyday citizen singing Bach with such fervor. Filmed in the lovely baroque-style Klosterkirche in Diessen, about 25 miles southwest of Munich, this is a wonderful representation of Richter and Bach.