Prom 26 (2.8.12): Bach – Mass in B minor
Thursday 2 August at 7.30 p.m.
Royal Albert Hall
J. S. Bach: Mass in B minor (110 mins)
Joélle Harvey soprano
Malin Christensson soprano
Iestyn Davies counter-tenor
Ed Lyon tenor
Matthew Rose bass
Choir of the English Concert
The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Nobody knows why it was written - it's one of the great mysteries of Bach's life. Why did he spend so much of his last two years reworking religious music he'd already written into an enormous setting of the Catholic Mass, in Latin? It's tempting to see the B minor Mass as a drawing-together-of-threads, the great composer's last religious will and testament, a monumental summation of his decades of work for the church... albeit usually for the Protestant Church, in German. Since the nineteenth century the Mass has become one of Bach's best-loved works - though it's almost always performed, as here, in concert halls rather than churches. But the English Concert, conductor Harry Bicket and their starry lineup of soloists are sure to bring new insights: their performance comes fresh from Leipzig, where they closed the 2012 Bachfest with the B minor Mass - in Bach's own church, the Thomaskirche.
Last edited by Eine Alpensinfonie; 26-07-12 at 17:58.
Are there any bits in this amazing work that were not culled from earlier cantatas, etc. I don't recall having heard the opening Kyrie anywhere else, but much of the rest can be found in Bach's earlier work. What is so amazing about this patchwork is the feeling of unity, in spite of its diverse origins.
Fresh from Leipzig,? Certainly as fresh as melted snow from your Alps, Alpensinfonie. There was nothing inherited, nothing 19th century about this interpretation was there? At times, I found, Bicket's spring-cleaning to be disconcerting, maybe that's how it should be. There was nothing murky going on. Each line was thought through afresh and projected with startling clarity. Some of the transitions gave me a jolt. The sort of jolt that I once received turning up for a Rehearsal / Performance Day at Birmingham University under John Joubert. We sang & played the B minor from scratch. I'd never heard it before, let alone sung the piece. It hit me like ... a bolt from the blue, or, as it was so vast, an avalanche. I recaptured that zing and the feeling of being overwhelmed by something almost out of this world tonight. Tremendous! Well Done, everybody.
Originally Posted by Eine Alpensinfonie
Oh dear! Can I whisper a contrary view very quietly? I thought it pretty po-faced and tedious
IMHO most of the tempi were much too fast.
I felt quite sorry for the horn player and the bass soloist in the 'Quoniam'.
I always do!
Originally Posted by waldhorn
I agree, very fast tempi. I thought the performance overall was good, but I particularly enjoyed Iestyn Davies's contributions. What a singer - and he always seems so relaxed.
I have to agree about the tempi. There must surely be a limit after which it is impossible to properly vocally articulate those long semiquaver passages [I'm thinking of the choruses]
The horn was just a "smudge" from where I was in the hall - 4th row arena
Originally Posted by waldhorn
Amazing how perceptions differ - it must have been a "Bradley Wiggins" performance - looks like it was out for an afternoon stroll yet actually flying along !