The "Lutheran masses" recorded here are usually given the name Missa Brevis, for they consist only of settings of the Kyrie and Gloria of the Latin mass. (The Mass in B minor, BWV 232, was, after all, also a Lutheran mass.) Both masses were largely assembled from parts of earlier cantatas, and compared with the common run of Bach's music they have not been terribly often recorded. This might not be your first Bach recording or even first Bach recording by the British choir the Sixteen, but for devotees of either it has some attractive traits. First is the the Sixteen here are the Eight; the music is sung with two voices per part. The forces not only work well in this small-scale music where subtle details of text adjustment are the main point, but also display the top-notch skills of the singers and their leader, Harry Christophers; two-to-a-part singing might be called the black belt of vocal ensemble. Second, the Mass in G minor, BWV 235, and Mass in F major, BWV 233, are programmed with the Cantata No. 102, BWV 102 ("Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!"), from which both the masses borrow. The Kyrie of BWV 235 is close to the cantata's opening chorus, while two of the arias in BWV 233, are taken from arias in the large two-part cantata. In neither case is the new music a note-for-note transcription, and it's worth thinking about why Bach chose this particular music (or these particular words) as suggestive of the Kyrie of the mass. Finally, there is the general clarity and beauty of the singing; the Sixteen are nobody's idea of a brilliantly innovative Baroque vocal ensemble, but in putting across the shape of complicated music in such a way that ordinary audiences find it attractive, they are hard to beat. The sound environment of St. Augustine's Church, Kilburn, London, is well suited to what the Sixteen strive to accomplish here. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Mass in G minor, BWV 235|
|Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!, BWV 102|
|Mass in F major, BWV 233|