> BACH Mass in B Minor TDK DVD DV-BAMB [KM]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Mass in B Minor BWV 232

Ruth Holton, soprano
Matthias Rexroth, alto
Christoph Genz, tenor
Klaus Mertens, baritone
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Georg Christopu Biller, Thomaskantor, Thomanerchor Leipzig
Rec: 28 July 2000, Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
TDK DV-BAMBM [114.00]


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Performed on modern instruments, this recording of Bach’s greatest vocal work has its good and bad points. The musicians are competent, the soloists excellent, but the choir, the real star of this work, disappoints.

The weakest part of this performance is the boys’ choir, which is clearly not cut out for music of this depth. Not only can one hear the occasional voices singing out of tune, the video shows how some of the singers seem to be merely mouthing the words, not at all involved in the music. The recording, made live on 28 July 2000, for the Bach 2000 television broadcast in Europe, is quite good, but the sound is a bit muddled. The large choir - easily 80 singers or more - overpowers the orchestra, drowning it out and hiding the subtle textures in the largest movements.

Nevertheless, a group of solid soloists makes the non-choral sections a delight. Ruth Holton is at top form, and countertenor Matthias Rexroth is quite good. Their voices marry well in the Christe eleison when they sing a duet. Rexroth shines in the Laudamus te, with a sparkling solo violin performance accompanying him, and gives an excellent performance of the Agnus dei.

Bass Klaus Mertens is excellent as always; he is one of the finest Bach basses currently singing, and rarely disappoints. Here, in his solos, he shows the unique command he has of this register.

Tenor Christoph Genz is a bit of a disappointment, sounding tired and uninterested. He only has one solo - the Benedictus - and one duet with Ruth Holton. He has a fine voice, but doesn’t sound as if this was one of his best days.

All things considered, this is not an excellent recording. Since the choir has such a central place in this work, a weak choir, as is the case here, leaves the listener wanting more, much more.

Kirk McElhearn

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