Bach: B Minor Mass

Album cover art for upc 822186051450
Label: NAIVE
Catalog: V5145
Format: CD

Marc Minkowski has made a career with Baroque music, especially Handel opera, so this recording of the Bach's B Minor Mass gives him an opportunity strut his stuff. Produced on the Niave label, this gorgeous booklet includes the two CDs, as well as a comprehensive book, all in a hardcover package. Le Musiciens du Louvre sound as good as ever under Minkowski, and the assembled vocalists give a solid interpretation of this cornerstone work of the sacred repertoire. The set is priced a bit more than a regular two-disc set, but is well worth if for the quality and the extra goodies. A top-notch recording! Wholenote Discoveries - June 2009
Marc Minkowski first came to the attention of Toronto concert-goers through his highly successful collaboration with Opera Atelier of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas back in 1995. But he has been an important force on the “period performance” scene for much longer than that, having founded Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble at the age of 20 in 1982. With dozens of recordings under his belt it seems strange that Minkowski has waited more than 25 years to tackle any of the major works of J. S. Bach. With the recent release of the Mass in B-minor all that has changed and Minkowski has embarked on a long-term projected “Bach cycle”. In the Mass Minkowski uses sparse forces which he feels reflect those which would have been available to Bach, had the work seen the light of day during his lifetime. Instrumentally there are just thirteen strings, pairs of winds and trumpets, solo horn for the famous duet with the bass voice in the Quoniam tu solus sanctus, timpani and continuo alternating between organ and harpsichord. The ten vocal soloists do double duty as one-voice-per-part choristers as required, and we are presented with an intimate, crystalline performance lasting one hour and forty-one minutes. Recorded last July during the fledgling Via Stellae Festival (Festival of Music of Compostela and its Ways of Pilgrimage) in the gothic San Domingos de Bonaval Church, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the reverberant acoustic belies the small ensemble and we are treated to a glorious full sound without losing any of the intimacy of the performance. The predominantly young vocal soloists are all outstanding, with highlights for me being alto (and former soprano soloist in the Vienna Boys’ Choir) Terry Wey in the Qui sedes ad dextram patris with oboe d’amore provided by Emmanuel Laporte and in the duet Et in unum Dominum with soprano Lucy Crowe; and Canadian tenor Colin Balzer’s Benedictus with flute soloist Florian Cousin. Beginning the cycle with what has been called the culmination of Bach’s life’s work will prove to be a tough act for Minkowski to follow, but on the evidence of this maiden voyage there are future treasures in store. Packaged as a one hundred page, trilingual hardcover book (thankfully with CD-case dimensions for easy filing) including program notes, an interview with Minkowski, texts with translations and full artist biographies, this handsome set is a welcome addition the catalogue and to my collection. David Olds

Price: $33.98