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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Motet: Der Gerechte kommt um (arr. Johann Kuhnau) [6.18]
Missa Brevis in G minor BWV235 [24.43]
Missa Brevis in A major BWV234 [30.13]
Eugťnie Warnier (soprano), Magid El-Bushra (alto), Emiliano Gonzalez Toro (tenor), Sydney Fierro (baritone)
Ensemble Pygmalion/RaphaŽl Pichon
rec. Temple du Saint-Esprit, Paris, 2007
ALPHA CLASSICS 302 [61.39]

This is part of the Alpha Collection, a series of 14 discs of various baroque composers. The CD is in a card folder with a booklet containing only a track-listing and an interview with the director RaphaŽl Pichon. As with the Monteverdi and Marazzoli CD reviewed previously (review), this interview does give some information about the music but it is focused on the concept behind the CD and the work of the Ensemble Pygmalion. It is a lively and confident exposition of his and the ensemble's history and outlook. Texts are available online and again can be reached eventually via the given URL but even then they cannot be downloaded for use whilst listening. The music is splendidly performed and very cleanly recorded.

Lacking much explicit information about the music in the supplied booklet it has been necessary to search elsewhere. This is a pity because the music has quite a complicated background and the words themselves are not a 'full' mass setting. The Motet is not exactly by Bach at all. It is an arrangement of a work by Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722), Bach's predecessor as Cantor of St Thomas' Leipzig. How far this arrangement goes I have not been able to establish, it has to suffice that it sounds like Bach, and if there were no indication to the contrary on the CD one would not suspect a different composer. According to John Eliot Gardiner, the motet, as arranged by Bach, was so successful for Gardiner's group during their tours that it became a regular encore. Each of Bach's Missa Brevis settings is a parody derived from his cantatas. It is well known that in the Baroque era composers regularly reused their own and others' music; these are good examples. Interested readers are invited to see the useful entry on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bach's_church_music_in_Latin where a fairly complete account is given.

The Ensemble Pygmalion was founded in 2006 by their director. They are young and very accomplished indeed. Their discography is littered with awards reflecting their quality. Nowhere in this hour of music does one's attention drift. The soloists, chorus and instrumental group really are first class, performing these pieces with immense energy. Since most of the music is by Bach there is no need to hesitate - just buy it.

Dave Billinge

 

 



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