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Early Music America  *Spring 2008)

Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020193952

Reviewer:  raig Zeichner

Have any works by a major composer received such short shrift as these four missae breves (short masses) by Bach? Written when the composer was 53 years old, the masses (BWV 233-236) are made up of parodies and recycled sections of cantata movements. Bach used a core group of cantatas (BWV 79, 102, 179, and 187) but also drew upon movements from at least seven other works for these four masses. He took great pains in the music he used and carefully crafted music to text, at times leaving the original music untouched.

These works are designed along the same formula: a choral Kyrie and a Gloria that’s broken into five movements and that contains a choral opening (“Gloria in excelsis Deo”) and closing (“Cum Sancto Spiritu”); the remaining sections are solo arias. Comprising eight voices and instruments, Cantus Cölln, under the direction of Konrad Junghänel, delivers stunning results. Besides some lovely solo work, the clarity and precision of the singing in the choral passages are superb. This is particularly evident in the frighteningly complex Kyrie of the Mass in G Major (BWV 236). The instrumental playing is also brilliant (there are lots of obbligato passages for various instruments) and contributes to making this a revelation of a recording.



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