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.
A very different set than Teldec's Bach 2000. The Hanssler Bachakademie, supervised by Helmut Rilling, is not HIP (historic instruments performance). The orchestras are warm and lush (but not huge). The soloists are, in general, extraordinary. The tempos are sane. Hanssler has included fragments of some incomplete BWV's that are not included in the Teldec set; a minor plus but appealing. I found I preferred these traditional instruments and the daring using of forte-piano in place of harpsichord on a few of the recordings (flute sonatas). Highlights for me are The Well-Tempered Clavier Books 1 and 2, Musical Offering, Flute Sonatas, The Motets. I also found I prefer these Cantatas recordings to any other, including the new Koopman, Suzuki and the well-known Leonhart-Harnoncourt. While not the newest recordings, the sound is warmer which I prefer to the new state-of-the-art HIP recordings. Although most of the Cantatas are older recordings, much of the Hanssler Bachakademie edition is newly recorded for this project and the sound is consistent and excellent.
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.
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.
Robert Shaw's reading of the B Minor Mass is, in one sense at least, just what one would expect: sober and purposeful, beautifully shaped (Shaw is a master architect), it centers on the chorus. Like all of Shaw's choruses, the Atlanta group has that trademark richness of body and blend, and it sings with utter unanimity as though it were one great voice. Shaw opts for marginally broader tempos than those found in most period-instrument performances but is nowhere near as glacial as some interpreters.
The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are renowned of their spectacular performances of Bach’s epic masterpiece, which they have toured extensively. During their last tour (in Munich, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Aix-en-Provence and Paris) there was a stampede for tickets and they performed every night in full houses, to spellbound audiences. This album is the culmination of the tour: it was recorded in an open session in London, and captures the special atmosphere of the concerts. It is presented in a 2-CD casebook and contains a booklet featuring original notes by John Eliot Gardiner translated in English, German and French.
Under the heading of "old business," someone a while back asked for opinion on the B Minor Mass of Robert Shaw. It is a performance I like a lot. Actually I prefer HIP treatment for Bach, but I think that Shaw goes a long way to give a dynamic life to this music. He has fine singers…..One of my favorites in the mass is the "Laudamus te" and you will go a long way to hear it sung any better than Delores Ziegler sings it….and the opening long phrase in one breath…..in a tempo more relaxed than one hears in other readings. Julianne Banse (Rilling) can also do it in one breath, but at a faster tempo. Veronica Gens (Herreweghe) can make you think that she does it in one breath, but she doesn't quite. She is very clever in this.