Dunedin Consort / John Butt

Bach: Mass in B minor

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AllMusic Review by

Linn Records' recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor is the first to utilize the revised Joshua Rifkin edition published by Breitkopf and Härtel in 2006. This is a refinement of the 1980s version in which Rifkin pared the instrumentation of the mass down to its barest essentials and rendered the chorus as a one-to-a-part vocal ensemble, and while the texture is a tad fuller here than on the radically skimpy recording made for Nonesuch at that time, it's still pretty minimal, especially in comparison to versions utilizing more traditional forces. This SACD recording by the Dunedin Consort and Players, led by John Butt -- who have enjoyed considerable critical acclaim for their 2007 recording of the Dublin version of Handel's Messiah -- utilizes just 10 singers and a band barely the size of a chamber orchestra. This approach definitely benefits the voices, and these are good singers, though there are no standout performances. Indeed, this recording is at its best in the ensembles, such as "Et resurrexit," "Et expecto," and "Laudamus te," where the flexibility of the small group raises the rhythmic profile of the music to a pitch of excitement and intensity that can be quite engaging. On the other hand, the heft and power that a traditional ensemble can bring to the Mass in B minor is noticeably lacking here and this set will not satisfy listeners for whom a large orchestral/choral rendering is the only viable option for Bach's last great choral work. However, Linn's SACD recording is spectacularly clear and solid and the orchestral playing is terrific; were that the solo singers were more distinctive and memorable in their star turns, then this would be just about perfect for a small potatoes Mass in B minor.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
1 1:46
2 1:54
3 4:11
4 2:55
5 3:02
6 4:02
7 5:27
8 3:39
9 2:07
10 4:58
11 2:38
12 4:55
13 2:39
14 4:26
15 3:15
blue highlight denotes track pick