Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 28 Jan 2005

Bach, Mass in B Minor

J.S. Bach, Mass in B Minor
The King's Consort
Robert King
2 CD's, Hyperion

Did I state my opinion that Bach is close to God? That will give you an idea of what is to come, but even without that, this is a very interesting piece of music.

Bach wrote this late in his long life, and in some ways it seems to be a demonstration of all he had learnt. It is a forceful, swirling work with both grandeur and delicacy. There is a small mystery however.

And that mystery relates to the fact that this is a Mass that could not have been performed in a Protestant Church because Luther had removed references to Christ's sacrifice from the liturgy and there are references to it in the B Minor Mass. The Mass also didn't follow the Roman Catholic way of proceeding so could not have been performed in a Catholic Church (which would have caused some ructions I imagine). In addition to that, the Mass is nearly two hours long and so, with the post reformation need of clergy to sermonise for hours, it would have been rather a large pill to swallow for an average Sunday.

What was Bach's motive in this? Academic opinion seems to like the idea that it was a "top this" statement by Bach but does that really chime with what we know of his character? Could it have been a statement, not only of his skill, but also an opinion on the liturgy as it then stood? Who knows? It is interesting to speculate though.

This is an absolutely magnificent work, perhaps Bach's finest, and this recording of the King's Consort by Hyperion is also very fine. (Count K)

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