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Thank you. I will still give it a listen. There are some whom I believe do a good job of not going overboard on the HIP stringency such as Trevor Pinnock. Most of what he does in the baroque I find rather good. Often excellent.

That's fine. That's what makes a ball game. We all like what we like. For me, it's not so much the actual performance of a HIP, it's the "cult-like" mentality that "IT HAS TO BE DONE ON HISTORICAL INSTRUMENTS AND TUNED TO HISTORICAL TONES IN ORDER TO HAVE ANY VALUE WHATSOEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" mentality that drives me nuts. I know that there are those who aren't that militant about HIP, but I have met more than my fair share that are that vehement about it.

To each his own.

V
Enter Ton Koopman, his (HIP) recordings are not thin, not speeding, not obviously moving out of tune (like the early HIPster recordings) and not conclusive/strict like Gardiner or dull and melodramatic like Herreweghe. Koopman is very inspired and truly festive, he also is the teacher of Suzuki. It is actually wonderful to hear Bach played as it is fun and a celebration of our existence.

Traditional Bach (like Karajan/Klemperer and the old school) sounds obese, like watching a turtle dance. No oxygen, no energy, like swimming in the mud or slowly drowning in quicksand. I truly can't listen to it.

Indeed, to each his own:
Organism Happy Font Art Poster
 

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No doubt in my mind; Concentus Musicus Wien directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Rotraud Hansmann - soprano 1
Emiko Iiyama - soprano 2
Helen Watts - alto
Kurt Equiluz - tenor
Max von Egmond - bass

Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Boys' Choir) directed by Hans Gillesberger

Vinyl - TELEFUNKEN - DAS ALTE WERK SKH 20/1-3 Sorry, don't have the CD info.
 

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Ton Koopman on Erato is perfect (but countertenors bother me, heh) and I would agree that listening to such complex works as B Mass played on modern instruments is a tiring work (though I enjoy Rilling, Sir John is my preference here). Herreweghe is not my cup of tea, can't listen to his choir on any given day. They used to aim at perfect diction totally overdoing it and it scratches my ear.
 

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Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Sibelius, Mahler, Messiaen
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Some nice observations in this thread.

Azol said:
Herreweghe is not my cup of tea, can't listen to his choir on any given day. They used to aim at perfect diction totally overdoing it and it scratches my ear.
Brahmsianhorn said:
I do not understand why Herreweghe insists on always putting such a lid on things in his recordings. To me it is a personal affect that ruins his interpretations. It does not present the works in their full glory as they are intended to be heard. Yes, the sounds he creates are beautiful, the choir lovely and well-blended. But this is Herreweghe, not Bach. I feel like I am getting only a sensitive, precious view of the work.
This is exactly my view on Herreweghe as well. He is probably my least favorite Bach conductor. Everything sounds so pretty, glossy, and homogeneous that it drains the drama out of the music. I never find the music memorable or emotionally affecting whenever I hear one of his recordings.

NLAdriaan said:
Koopman is very inspired and truly festive, he also is the teacher of Suzuki. It is actually wonderful to hear Bach played as it is fun and a celebration of our existence.
Yes, I agree that Bach should be a celebration of existence! However I always prefer Suzuki to Koopman for his less "interventionist" conducting. Koopman can adopt some surprisingly broad tempi but sometimes rushes a lot as well. Suzuki's choir has a fresh, light sound that matches the quick dance music in the Mass to a T.

NLAdriaan said:
Traditional Bach (like Karajan/Klemperer and the old school) sounds obese, like watching a turtle dance. No oxygen, no energy, like swimming in the mud or slowly drowning in quicksand. I truly can't listen to it.
Richter's Bach sounds this way to me (and I understand how that can be said about Karajan too), but I find that Klemperer sustains my interest with a hypnotic power, mainly due to the dazzling performance of his choir who sings like every note is their last. The opening Kyrie always strikes me as too slow, but holy smokes, it is riveting! This is the recording that really launched my passion for comparing performances and for that reason it remains among my favorite interpretations of anything.

Gardiner gets recommended a lot. He is brilliant, virtuosic, and engaging but IMO suffers due to a lack of soul.

I highly recommend this unfortunately OOP version for those new to the work:


This is a great underlooked HIP version:


But the most unfortunate oversight of this thread by far, is the ravishing, sensibly-paced Jochum.
 

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This is exactly my view on Herreweghe as well. He is probably my least favorite Bach conductor. Everything sounds so pretty, glossy, and homogeneous that it drains the drama out of the music. I never find the music memorable or emotionally affecting whenever I hear one of his recordings.
I largely agree with you - most of Herreweghe's recordings are polished to the nth degree but lack drama. But for me, the two Passions are the exceptions, particularly his first recordings of them.
 

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So far, I know Gardiner, Herreweghe, and Klemperer.

Love the Gardiner.

Herreweghe's is not dramatic enough, as others have said. He makes the music pretty, instead of assertively "masculine."

Klemperer was hard for me to like at first, but now I love the haunting, slow Kyrie, the mighty Gloria, the rest of the Mass.
 

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I'm rather new to broadly-defined classical music, and the kyrie of Bach's B-minor mass has stood out to me as just one of the absolute most gorgeous pieces of music I've ever heard. That said, I think I strongly prefer performances that are faster and with fewer singers and instrumentalists - on the 'chamber music' end of things. Does anyone have good recommendations along these lines?
 

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I'm rather new to broadly-defined classical music, and the kyrie of Bach's B-minor mass has stood out to me as just one of the absolute most gorgeous pieces of music I've ever heard. That said, I think I strongly prefer performances that are faster and with fewer singers and instrumentalists - on the 'chamber music' end of things. Does anyone have good recommendations along these lines?
Václav Luks and Collegium 1704 are certainly on the "chamber music" side of interpretations.
 

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I largely agree with you - most of Herreweghe's recordings are polished to the nth degree but lack drama. But for me, the two Passions are the exceptions, particularly his first recordings of them.
Oh, back to gustibus... Herreweghe is by far my favorite Bach conductor. I listen to his Cantata recordings almost daily and heard the B minor Mass just yesterday. I like the Mass a lot, although Gardiner there has a certain kick/frisson that is irresistible. Waiting for my Jordi Savall recording to arrive.

For the passions it's Herreweghe and Harnoncourt.

I have something of Butt, an English critical favorite and didn't like it enough to even remember what it was lol.

Klemperer. Really? Been so long I can't even remember what it might have been like, guess that's the cue to try again.

I find that the B minor Mass and Passions are special occasion music, not daily bread. When I have time for a long sit I can do the St. Matthew Passion or B minor mass. The St. John Passion bothers me, I can make excuses but the content is troubling in retrospect.
 

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Cheregi writes, "That said, I think I strongly prefer performances that are faster and with fewer singers and instrumentalists - on the 'chamber music' end of things. Does anyone have good recommendations along these lines?"

Me too, generally, & for scholarly as well as aesthetic reasons (although I wouldn't want to be without conductor Peter Schreier's two wonderful Leipzig & Dresden accounts of the Mass played on modern instruments).

For one-voice-per-part or OVPP performances, I'd suggest that you look into the period recording by the Dunedin Consort, conducted by John Butt, which uses an edition of the score created by Joshua Rifkin (who made the very first OVPP recording on LP back in the early 1980s). Note that there are parts of the mass that call for a double choir--here at least 10 singers, 2 x 5, or a double quintet (versus the usual 8 singers in a double choir--2x4, or a double quartet), so the singing shouldn't sound too sparse in those sections. Nor, IMO, should the final Dona Nobis Pacem be taken briskly, as Bach intended the movement to be played with 'majesty' (which may be something to keep in mind when comparing recordings).


Another favorite of mine is the partly, but not entirely OVPP recording by Jos van Veldhoven and The Netherlands Bach Society on Channel Classics, in DSD hybrid SACD surround sound. Veldhoven mixes an OVPP choir with a fuller (yet not oversized) choir for "aesthetic" reasons, but tends to favor brisk tempi (if you like brisk tempi in Bach, you'll also want to check out his St. Matthew Passion). Here's a live performance to give you some idea about Veldhoven's approach to Bach:
. (Otherwise, I see the Channel Classics box set may be hard to find these days, as it appears to have gone OOP on Amazon... ??)

In addition, there are a number of other excellent OVPP versions that are worth looking into, which you may prefer, as tastes can vary: from (1) Konrad Junghanel & Cantus Colln (although unfortunately, Junghanel takes the final Dona Nobis Pacem too briskly--in my view, in an otherwise terrific reading), (2) Marc Minkowski & Les Musiciens du Louvre (in their very first Bach recording--imagine starting with the Mass in B minor!), and (3) the pioneering OVPP performance from Andrew Parrott & the Taverner Consort & Choir (which I expect you'll probably like, since it's a very reduced performance, like Butt, Parrott uses no more than 10 singers, with an authentic sized instrumental ensemble. Btw, you may also enjoy reading Parrott's book on the subject of Bach's choir: https://www.amazon.com/Essential-Bach-Choir-Andrew-Parrott/dp/0851157866). While others have liked Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande's recording, released in 2009 (& reissued in 2015) a bit more than me I'd say ... So you might want to check out and compare these recordings via listening samples (on You Tube, Spotify, etc.) & read reviews.

Konrad Junghanel, Cantus Colln:

Andrew Parrott, Taverner Consort & hoir:

With that said, I've not heard the recent OVPP version from Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen, but it has received good, if maybe slightly mixed reviews in some quarters, and it also comes on two hybrid SACDs.

The conductor that I'd consider to be the finest OVPP Bach conductor in the world today is Eric Milnes, who records with Montreal Baroque on the Atma label. Milnes initiated, at the time, the first OVPP cycle of Bach Cantatas, and has been progressing slowly but surely through this cycle over the past decade or so, taking his time to produce thoroughly well rehearsed performances, where he has consistently chosen exceptional solo singers: One essential & quite necessary attribute in a OVPP performance, considering that the singers are more exposed in these performances. Milnes' tempi are also consistently apt & well chosen, in my view. However, unfortunately, Milnes has yet to give us a Bach Mass in B minor. Hopefully, he will one day, and if so, I'll definitely be purchasing it. So, I'd suggest keeping an eye out for a possible Mass in B minor from him--which will be worth the wait, I expect, but in the meantime, I'd also recommend exploring his wonderful 'in progress' Bach Cantata series on Atma: For starters, you might check out their superb disc of Bach's very underrated St. Michaelmas Cantatas (which I liked so much that I bought an extra copy as back up, which is something I very rarely do):

https://www.amazon.com/Bach-Cantate...s+bach+cantatas&qid=1610128450&s=music&sr=1-6.

Another excellent OVPP Bach conductor & ensemble to watch out for in the future--for a possible Mass in B minor--is Philippe Pierlot and the Ricercar Consort. Pierlot & co. have made a very fine OVPP recording of Bach's Magnificat, for example, and will undoubtedly get to the 'great' Mass at some point:


You might also enjoy the Purcell Quartet's OVPP chamber recordings of Bach Cantatas (but again, they've not done the Mass in B minor):
.

(Btw, while I'm on the subject of the cantatas, there's another excellent OVPP Bach Cantata disc from Konrad Junghanel & Cantus Colln, performing the "Actus Tragicus" Cantata BWV 106, etc.:
. Plus, there's also Joshua Rifkin's pioneering OVPP Bach Cantata recordings on L'Oiseau-Lyre, which are well worth hearing.)

While in the 'other camp', you'll probably want to stay away from conductors Gardiner, Herreweghe, Leonhardt, Hengelbrock, and Koopman, who all use oversized choirs (usually well over 16 singers, which was the limit during Bach's lifetime, in Lutheran Germany) & larger instrumental forces than Bach asks for, whatever the merits of their performances may be otherwise. Of these five, Gardiner tends to get away with a huge choir, more so than the others, due to the incredible virtuosity of his Monteverdi Choir. So too does Hengelbrock, with his fine Balthasar-Neumann-Choir (& excellent Freiburger Barockorchester). In contrast, Suzuki tends to use smaller, more medium sized forces than these conductors (16 singers or less), but his performances aren't one-voice-to-a-part, either.

As for Vaclav Luks and Collegium 1704, Luks uses a choir of 21 singers, which is a gigantic choir for Bach's time, and therefore, far from an authentic 'chamber' version. Although it is a beautiful and thoughtful performance.

Hope that helps.
 

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Me too, generally, & for scholarly as well as aesthetic reasons (although I wouldn't want to be without conductor Peter Schreier's two wonderful Leipzig & Dresden accounts of the Mass played on modern instruments).
Wow!! Thank you for this amazingly, wonderfully thorough response! I am making my way through all of these recommendations. I haven't even begun listening with any seriousness to recordings of the cantatas, because Bach's oeuvre is just too intimidatingly large, so it's great to also have places to start with those.
 

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I largely agree with you - most of Herreweghe's recordings are polished to the nth degree but lack drama. But for me, the two Passions are the exceptions, particularly his first recordings of them.
Herreweghe's second recording of the mass is beautifully played and sung - fabulous Angus Dei from Scholl - but certainly not lacking in drama to my ears.
 

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Klemperer’s interpretation was my introduction to this greatest of Bach masses. Recently I’ve discovered Veldhoven, who has not been mentioned too many times in this thread. Whereas Klemperer is suffused with the power and force of sound, I think Veldhoven’s version features a pleasing balance and clarity maintained among the performers throughout the movements. I do recommend trying both.
 

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The comments above are worthy opinions, so please forgive my duplication of some already recommended.

I collect the B-Minor-Mass and have far too many recordings. All Herreweghe's recordings are safe when I need a relaxed but polished listen. Veldhoven, Dijkstra, Lutz, Henglebrock and Jordi Savall are more dramatic and regular listens. Yesterday I enjoyed Harnoncourt's first and he, Gardiner, Bruggen, Butt, Konrad Junghanel, Masaaki Suzuki & Luks are also highly recommended. Richter needs to be included on any list as it is a worthy classic. I do also admit to listening to Peter Schreier, Shaw, Klemperer and Enescu when I want a larger assembly or something different, although they are occasional listens only. Those I have and avoid are William Christie, Stephen Layton and Karajan. Many others are good, some mentioned above.

I find my mood dictates which I listen to and I would be hard pressed to go without any of the recordings, even those I don't really enjoy, they help me appreciate my favourites even more.

However no recording can replace a live performance and I cannot wait for the current restrictions to be lifted as I can think of no more appropriate music to celebrate when we can return to listening live. The last time I saw it live I sat next to Lenny Henry, that was when Butt last performed the Mass at the Barbican and we had a lively discussion about Albert Coates first recording, while I would not recommend buying it, it is out of copyright and worth a listen for historical reasons only.

Eric Milnes is on the wish list, but does anyone know of any about to be released?
 

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Martin70 writes, "Eric Milnes is on the wish list, but does anyone know of any about to be released?

In regards to the Mass in B minor, there are no plans as far as I know currently. However!!, the following Covid-19 related recording of the Kyrie on 33 'socially distant' cellphones (& therefore I suppose some allowances must be made)--with the Ensemble L'Harmonie des saisons--shows that he's recently had the Mass on his mind. I don't know this Quebec based ensemble, as they are new to me, so I can't vouch for them. Although Milnes' other ensemble, Montreal Baroque, is, IMO, one of the best period bands on the planet, & I can certainly recommend them. In the past, Milnes has also worked with the superb Boston-based choir, Blue Heron, led by Scott Metcalfe, so I suppose he could potentially record a Mass in B minor out of Boston, as well, or possibly Portland, Oregon, where he has also worked, or maybe New York City, where he's from...


In the meantime, here is Milnes' discography for the Canadian Atma label, and again, I'd strongly recommend his current 'in progress' OVPP Bach Cantata series for that label (& especially the "St. Michaelmas" Cantatas disc, which has become a great favorite of mine, and makes a valuable contrast to Gardiner's recordings of the same using larger forces): https://atmaclassique.com/en/artiste/eric-milnes/
 

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While in the 'other camp', you'll probably want to stay away from conductors Gardiner, Herreweghe, Leonhardt, Hengelbrock, and Koopman, who all use oversized choirs (usually well over 16 singers, which was the limit during Bach's lifetime, in Lutheran Germany) & larger instrumental forces than Bach asks for, whatever the merits of their performances may be otherwise. Of these five, Gardiner tends to get away with a huge choir, more so than the others, due to the incredible virtuosity of his Monteverdi Choir. So too does Hengelbrock, with his fine Balthasar-Neumann-Choir (& excellent Freiburger Barockorchester). In contrast, Suzuki tends to use smaller, more medium sized forces than these conductors (16 singers or less), but his performances aren't one-voice-to-a-part, either.

As for Vaclav Luks and Collegium 1704, Luks uses a choir of 21 singers, which is a gigantic choir for Bach's time, and therefore, far from an authentic 'chamber' version. Although it is a beautiful and thoughtful performance.

Hope that helps.
As an important historical note, we know Bach consistently requested more singers than what he had available. Ideally, according to his letters, he would have liked to have around 32 singers; this is what Gardiner generally bases his forces on. It is unlikely Bach ever heard his music sung with many more than 16ish singers (if even that) but he generally wanted it sung with more. As 32 was already close to fantastical for his day, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable he might have preferred even more if he could choose, and hear, any number of high-quality singers.

All this is to say I don't think OVPP have such an exclusive claim to being the "authentic" Bach voice.
 

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As an important historical note, we know Bach consistently requested more singers than what he had available. Ideally, according to his letters, he would have liked to have around 32 singers; this is what Gardiner generally bases his forces on. It is unlikely Bach ever heard his music sung with many more than 16ish singers (if even that) but he generally wanted it sung with more. As 32 was already close to fantastical for his day, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable he might have preferred even more if he could choose, and hear, any number of high-quality singers.

All this is to say I don't think OVPP have such an exclusive claim to being the "authentic" Bach voice.
I think as Gardiner himself says anyone who says their performance is 'authenitic' is suffering under a delusion as Bach along with Handel te al would adapt his music to what he had available. If he had a choir of 32 you bet he would've use them. The charge Gardiner uses a 'huge' choir for the mass is actually quite ridiculous as it was considered small when the recording was made withOVPP in p,aces.
 
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