Bach: Mass in B minor, BWV 232

Reviewed on Thu 17 May, 2018

Aiming to show “a human side of Bach’s art”, William Christie places the accent on brisk tempos and loosely woven textures in this vibrant (occasionally idiosyncratic) live recording.

William Christie’s memorable tour of the Bach B minor Mass in 2016 was one of the highlights of the musical year. Now committed to disc, it presents a reading that is devout, joyful, tender, sensual (in places) and intimate throughout, albeit always cognizant of the music’s monumental scale and import. Aiming to show “a human side of Bach’s art”, Christie places the accent on brisk tempos and loosely woven textures in this vibrant (occasionally idiosyncratic) live recording. With mid-range forces – 21 voices and 29 instrumentalists – the performance conducts itself with chamber-like reciprocity. Solo vocal contributions are strong throughout, the chorus often luminous, the instrumental accompaniment alert and vivacious in a lithe, lyrical, often ebullient and particularly sprightly performance from the then 71-year-old Christie. Anyone expecting German weight and earnestness (even in this most celebratory of religious statements) will be disappointed. Others will find its radiant, quicksilver sheen a thing of beatific beauty.
–Michael Quinn