American Bach Soloists, Bach: Mass In B Minor, BWV 232 (disc1)

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Conductor Jeffrey Thomas and his all-star aggregation (among the stellar vocal soloists are sopranos Julianne Baird and Judith Nelson, mezzo Jennifer Lane, tenor Patrick Romano, baritone William Sharp and bass James Weaver) work a winning combination, capturing the grandeur of traditional large-scale Bach performances while also utilizing up-to-date "period performance" scholarship. Thomas does this by bucking the as-fast-as-possible trend in favor of some daringly broad tempos recalling conductors of half a century ago leading much larger groups. By contrast, Thomas mostly works with soloists, a small orchestra and a 24-voice choir for some, but not all, of the choruses. The benefits are best shown in a pair of juxtaposed sections: an indelibly eerie, intense "Crucifixus" and contrastingly celebratory "Et resurrexit," and a brooding "Agnus Dei" and majestically concluding "Dona nobis pacem." With Koch surprisingly having let this fine set lapse from print, eMusic is the easiest way to obtain it.