Michel Corboz

Bach: Messe en Si mineur

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Here's a Bach Mass in B minor that's decidedly old-school, for those who like it that way. The Vocal Ensemble of Lausanne, founded by Swiss conductor Michel Corboz in 1961, is conducted by him in a recording made in 2008, not departing fundamentally in style from what would have been done 50 years ago, but with the basic style beautifully refined. Corboz has performed this music many times and recorded it several, and this shows up in absolutely confident moves through a crisp but somehow lush approach to the score. The Lausanne choristers, a moderate-size group, have a rich sound, on the spare side in terms of vibrato, and they respond in perfect ensemble to Corboz's tendency to mark out strong contrasts of tempo with slight ritardandi. Corboz is a master of the long line, and many of the choral passages (try especially the central parts of the Credo) have a lightness that conveys reverence without resorting to any kind of conventional impression of worship. Everything about the recording fits with the overall conception: the modern instruments, coming through loud and clear in symphonic textures over the organ continuo far in the background, the big, thick sound of the soloists. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is the sound; the mass was recorded not in a church but in La Ferme de Villefavard en Limousin, a farm-as-community center with an acoustically remarkable stone barn that both achieves absolute detail and suggests the boxy sound of Corboz's earliest recordings. For those who enjoy the likes of Philippe Herreweghe in Bach this will be a bit of a throwback, but it is both highly musical and entirely distinctive. Notes are in French and English.

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