Bach: Mass in B minor

Started by Don Giovanni, April 18, 2007, 11:30:17 AM

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LKB

When l was introduced to the work, the " hot " new recording ( heavily promoted by my boss at Tower Records ) was Marriner's with his ASMF on Philips.

It still seems to me a good performance, released just before HIP recordings started to have a real impact, though the soloists' contributions seem more questionable these days. So a qualified recommendation for anyone who is not hip to HIP.
Mit Fl├╝geln, die ich mir errungen...

milk


San Antone

Quote from: Yabetz on March 13, 2022, 05:35:37 AM
I haven't heard any HIP performances that match my 3 all time favorite interpreters: Corboz, Rilling and Richter.

None of your choices nor any modern recordings can match my three favorite OVPP recordings: Rifkin, Kuijken, and Junghanel.

Chaszz

Please excuse me for coming here in mid-stream; I just noticed this thread. I don't have time to go through all the prior posts so will just beg pardon and write about my utter dissatisfaction with the tempi in HIP interpretations of the B Minor Mass. I am trying to enable my adult children to enjoy the Mass, and send them music files or links on Youtube to do so.
Of my favorite chorus, Cum Sancto Spiritu, there is NOT ONE example anywhere among recent recordings that I can send them. I must go back into the past to find something that does the writing at all justice. I'm not asking for recommendations; I have already found and recorded copies of a few that will serve. I'm just discussing the utter barbarization of musical culture that has taken place among this generation of conductors. The trumpet double triplet at the climax of Cum Sancto Spiritu, so inspired and necessary at that climax, is just a smear in all current day recordings if it can even be distinguished at all in the runaway-locomotive chaos. This defacement alone puts the lie to any tempo decision than an HIP conductor can make. The architecture of the polyphony throughout this movement, a monument to genius, is destroyed like a building razed by Putin. For years I've been looking for a justification of these tempi and never found one. And the tempi in all Bach get faster and faster. This is desecration of art on the highest scale. It is far worse than the Romanticisation of Bach, longer and more languorous tempi, that took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries and is deplored by HIP conductors. Throwing the baby out with bath water, indeed. I am saddened immeasurably by the beauty younger generations have missed in Bach and will never recover.
It's as if a hammer were taken to Michelangelo. (Once again please forgive me for all the detailed discussion of this point I've undoubtedly(?)  missed in the prior pages as time doesn't permit me to search thru.) 

KevinP

Quote from: Chaszz on March 17, 2022, 09:14:34 AM
I don't have time to go through all the prior posts so will just beg pardon and write about my utter dissatisfaction with the tempi in HIP interpretations of the B Minor Mass.


I'm not 100% opposed to the HIP movement, though some admirers of it have--perhaps unfairly--prejudiced me against it and I do my best to keep that in check.

What I find funny, if unfortunate, is how someone found a quote from one of Bach's sons saying that his father tended to take tempos pretty quickly. and since then, all recordings of the first movement have been nine minutes and some seconds or very close. Prior to that, they varied greatly, rarely that fast and with some recordings exceeding 18 minutes. At the now-standard tempo, it's a nice vocal fugue; slowed down, it takes on a beautiful, unearthly/heavenly quality.

idia legray

Quote from: Don Giovanni on April 18, 2007, 11:30:17 AM
Which would you say is the best recording of this work? I know that it may be a matter of opinion, but I would appreciate 2 or 3 recommendations.
Karl Richter.

DizzyD

Quote from: KevinP on April 21, 2022, 01:34:16 AM

I'm not 100% opposed to the HIP movement, though some admirers of it have--perhaps unfairly--prejudiced me against it and I do my best to keep that in check.

What I find funny, if unfortunate, is how someone found a quote from one of Bach's sons saying that his father tended to take tempos pretty quickly. and since then, all recordings of the first movement have been nine minutes and some seconds or very close. Prior to that, they varied greatly, rarely that fast and with some recordings exceeding 18 minutes. At the now-standard tempo, it's a nice vocal fugue; slowed down, it takes on a beautiful, unearthly/heavenly quality.
Totally agree, and I'm in the same boat. It seems that in a lot of HIP there's nothing slower than allegro moderato.

Jo498

The first Kyrie is similar in affekt to the b minor fugue from WTK 1. It should be slowish, but not glacial.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

DizzyD

Quote from: Jo498 on July 03, 2022, 10:44:14 AM
The first Kyrie is similar in affekt to the b minor fugue from WTK 1. It should be slowish, but not glacial.
It's marked Largo in the score, so I think it should be slow, but maybe not Klemperer-slow. Some HIP recordings I've heard take even the Crucifixus at an allegretto pace. I wonder if that's due to the thinner textures of a HIP ensemble. The pre-HIP-dominance recordings of Rilling and Corboz are fairly lively but still let the music breathe.

premont

Quote from: Jo498 on July 03, 2022, 10:44:14 AM
The first Kyrie is similar in affekt to the b minor fugue from WTK 1. It should be slowish, but not glacial.

Spot on, I think.
As soon as a word has left the lips, not even the fastest horse can catch up with it.

KevinP

Quote from: DizzyD on July 03, 2022, 11:01:20 AM
It's marked Largo in the score, so I think it should be slow, but maybe not Klemperer-slow. Some HIP recordings I've heard take even the Crucifixus at an allegretto pace. I wonder if that's due to the thinner textures of a HIP ensemble. The pre-HIP-dominance recordings of Rilling and Corboz are fairly lively but still let the music breathe.

Richter is sometimes considered proto-hip, though that's not a term I particularly like. Defining someone by features that are developed later usually distorts something that isn't into something that is, and does so to justify the later movement. But he was the first to really scale back on the size of the choir, and as a result, could take faster tempi. Klemperer's chorus was so huge they effectively had natural speed limits.

This is why Richter's recordings remain my favourite. I don't think he was saying, 'I want to be noticed for going faster, so I'm going to use smaller forces' nor 'I'm doing it this way because history says that how it must have been.' It sounds like he preferred the sound of smaller forces, and the freedom to take things a little faster was a natural consequence. I can't think of an instance in which I completely disagree with his tempo choice. There are some times where he takes things faster or slower than I would have, were I a conductor, but he does it convincingly.

DizzyD

#231
Quote from: KevinP on July 03, 2022, 03:38:38 PM
Richter is sometimes considered proto-hip, though that's not a term I particularly like.
Me either. It makes it sound like HIP is some perfected state at which musicians have been aiming until finally hitting paydirt in the mid 20th century.
QuoteDefining someone by features that are developed later usually distorts something that isn't into something that is, and does so to justify the later movement. But he was the first to really scale back on the size of the choir, and as a result, could take faster tempi. Klemperer's chorus was so huge they effectively had natural speed limits.

This is why Richter's recordings remain my favourite. I don't think he was saying, 'I want to be noticed for going faster, so I'm going to use smaller forces' nor 'I'm doing it this way because history says that how it must have been.' It sounds like he preferred the sound of smaller forces, and the freedom to take things a little faster was a natural consequence. I can't think of an instance in which I completely disagree with his tempo choice. There are some times where he takes things faster or slower than I would have, were I a conductor, but he does it convincingly.
I'm a huge Richter fan too. I cherish my complete DG-Archiv Richter box set. Expensive, but I think it's still a bargain. I can't think of any other Bach recordings in which the instrumental parts are so beautifully balanced and distinct. And the singing is terrific. His recording of Handel's Messiah in German is absolutely luminous, although there are some cuts in the work that leave me scratching my head. (He recorded a complete version in English as well.)

DavidW

Quote from: KevinP on July 03, 2022, 03:38:38 PM
Richter is sometimes considered proto-hip, though that's not a term I particularly like. Defining someone by features that are developed later usually distorts something that isn't into something that is, and does so to justify the later movement. But he was the first to really scale back on the size of the choir, and as a result, could take faster tempi. Klemperer's chorus was so huge they effectively had natural speed limits.

This is why Richter's recordings remain my favourite. I don't think he was saying, 'I want to be noticed for going faster, so I'm going to use smaller forces' nor 'I'm doing it this way because history says that how it must have been.' It sounds like he preferred the sound of smaller forces, and the freedom to take things a little faster was a natural consequence. I can't think of an instance in which I completely disagree with his tempo choice. There are some times where he takes things faster or slower than I would have, were I a conductor, but he does it convincingly.

Well said.  Semi-recently the NYT did a nice write up about Richter's career.  I think I shared it on this forum.  His Bach is just incredible!

Jo498

#233
Quote from: KevinP on July 03, 2022, 03:38:38 PM
Richter is sometimes considered proto-hip, though that's not a term I particularly like. Defining someone by features that are developed later usually distorts
But they were not really developed later rather roughly at the same time and Richter was to some extent part of it. "HIP" has been a slow and sometimes zigzag development since the early 20th century and Richter was e.g. playing harpsichord, not piano (even less Busoni or Liszt versions which is the real contrast to "HIP"). And Richter (*1926) was 20 years younger than Wenzinger and only 2-3 years older than Leonhardt and Harnoncourt.

There are some tempi that are hardly feasible with a large choir. But the difference between a 9 vs. 15 min. Kyrie I or a 7 vs. 11 min St. Matthew first choir are not such cases because the "fast" tempi are still quite moderate compared to e.g. the "Gloria", Osanna or some Turbae in the passions. I have not done any systematic comparisons and don't have enough older recordings to to them but I'd guess that the tempo differences among at least some moderate/fastish pieces, e.g. the Kyrie II, Credo, Gloria in excelsis etc. are actually smaller between 1950s/60s "traditional" or early HIP recordings and later ones than they are in the "slow" pieces like Kyrie I, Et Incarnatus, Crucifixus...
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal

eoghan

#234
Did my latest little blind taste test on this. I went for a selection of movements (opening Kyrie; Qui tollis peccata; Cum Sancto Spiritu; Et in unum Dominum; Crucifixus) which included my personal favourite moments (Qui tollis, Crucifixus) with a bit of a variety of other stuff. Haven't got time to break down my thoughts movement by movement but here are my overall thoughts. This is such a question of personal taste and preference. I consistently preferred choral versions to OVPP. I'm not dogmatically HIP-centric and threw in the Richter for comparison (which I didn't know) but really it doesn't make sense to compare 11 HIP recordings alongside one which is completely different. I really didn't like the Richter at all (and for reference, I think Klemperer's SMP is stunning so I'm not against the old readings). I found Richter very syrupy - beautiful singing but unlike Klemperer's SMP which has power, majesty and solemnity, this is sickly sweet, like listening to the Flower Duet at times. One day I'll give it a go in isolation - it's unfair to listen to it alongside a bunch of completely different recordings - but I don't think it's for me.

That leaves 11 others and the ones I didn't like were generally OVPP but that really is just personal taste, I'm not big on solo vocal music generally and they were mostly just too stripped back for my taste. Your mileage may vary. The ones I didn't particularly like were Parrott (a lovely Kyrie, but a watery Qui tollis with little to recommend, an excellent Et in unum Dominum, an underpowered Cum Sanco Spiritu and a slow Crucifixus); Herreweghe (reserved, pretty, generally rather ordinary; a nice Cum Sanco Spiritu which dances); Butt (my main complaint is that the microphones focus heavily on the soloists with the instruments very much in the background so the balance is all wrong; interpretation is generally good, simple and crisp; go and buy it anyway because one of the soloists is a friend of mine); and Rifkin (definitely the most interesting/idiosyncratic of the OVPP versions, very pared back, has some good things to say, falls down as a victim of my poor taste).

Middle tier were, for me, Hengelbrock (an extremely slow, sombre Kyrie contrasts with a wonderfully lively Cum Sancto Spiritu but other movements just lack je ne sais quoi); Kuijken (lots of good things going on); and Jacobs who varies his tempi to good effect, generally on the fast side, again lots of good things here.

My top four were all choral versions. Just missing out on a place at the top table were Savall (stunning Kyrie which benefits from the extra pace; layers upon layers in the Qui tollis; can get a little muddy in places but so many exciting things to say and moments of drama) and, somewhat to my surprise for a conductor who I don't normally associate with Bach for some reason, Christophers. His approach is rather conservative but always perfectly judged and the singing, instrumental playing, phrasing and balance are always just so.

However, out in front by quite a distance for me were two recordings: Suzuki and Gardiner. Both are sensational. The Gardiner is more refined, slightly sweeter sounding, a little more rounded, always stunningly beautiful. This is in many ways typical Gardiner with that fairly polished sound but I don't mean that as an insult; he just "gets" Bach vocal music perhaps like nobody else. The Suzuki, on the other hand, is a touch more austere, more sombre. It has dignity from start to finish, perhaps a little more tortured in the appropriate moments whereas the religious vision portrayed by Gardiner is slightly more ethereal and heavenly. It never puts a foot wrong. Both are wonderful; the Suzuki gets the nod from me as my day-to-day choice but there's not a cigarette paper between them. (I'd add that Suzuki's Qui tollis is just stunning: building layer after layer, getting deeper and deeper, and when the flutes get going it's probably the most intensely beautiful bit of vocal music I've ever heard)

If there are any equivalents in the Mass of the Klemperer SMP, I'd be very interested to give them a go?

VonStupp

Quote from: eoghan on November 06, 2022, 03:46:02 AM
Did my latest little blind taste test on this[...]

My favorites are Rilling and Marriner (although I haven't heard Rilling's earlier with Arleen Auger). Both seem to find a middle ground approach that I like.

Fasolis is a bit fast for me, but I do like his soloists.

VS
"All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff."

Jo498

The late 70s Rilling has good soloists and was solid for its time but it seems a bit staid compared with more lively HIP or even the Jochum from about the same time. Jochum is more romantic but fairly lively whereas Rilling is a bit "neutral". Although I don't have this disc anymore, it was my first recording in the late 1980s on CD.

IIRC I don't much care for the soloists on the Gardiner/Archiv as impressive and precise as his choir is, it's not that extraordinary any more 30 years later with many professional chamber choirs having recorded the piece.  Although the arias are not nearly as important here (for me) as in the Passions it's a point against this recording.
Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre.
- Blaise Pascal