Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, – 28 July 1750) was the greatest composer of the baroque era. He created a vast output of concertos, cantatas, choral, organ and keyboard works; many of which are masterpieces that are still regularly performed in the concert hall and on disk.
Bach’s Mass in B minor, BWV232 is arguably his greatest piece of choral music; other notable examples being his St Matthew Passion, BWV244 and St John Passion, BWV245.
The B minor Mass provides a supreme example of the, then commonplace, practice of parody. (In this context the term refers merely to borrowing, rather than having the contemporary connotation of caricature.) What is most remarkable about the overall shape of the Mass in B Minor is the fact that Bach managed to shape such a coherent sequence of movements from diverse material. At most one or two sections of the mass were freshly composed, the remainder of the work being adapted from earlier cantata movements.
The original manuscript shows that Bach divided the Mass into four major sections. The first section is the Missa, and includes the Kyrie and Gloria. The second is the Symbolum Nicenum (or the Credo). The third consists of a single movement, the Sanctus, and the fourth is entitled Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei et Dona nobis pacem.
We have selected a quite recent recording from Concerto Copenhagen on the CPO label. Concerto Copenhagen is the leading Scandinavian ensemble for historical performance practice. The ensemble, under its current artistic director Lars Ulrik Mortensen, is currently gaining worldwide recognition as one of the most remarkable and imaginative orchestras in the period performance movement. This SACD contains a wonderful, moving performance that is full of musical insight but is not over-contrived in the way that some recent ‘historically informed’ releases have been. Listen and let us know what you think.