Philippe Herreweghe / Collegium Vocale

Bach: Missa in h-moll

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Philippe Herreweghe founded Collegium Vocale Ghent in 1970 and has been its primary conductor since, so it's no surprise that after 40 years, on this 2011 recording of J.S. Bach's B minor Mass, the conductor and choir project an organically unified approach to the masterpiece. From the opening Kyrie Eleison, the singers' intuitive understanding of each other is evident in the surging waves of sound expressing urgent supplications for God's mercy. Throughout, the group responds to Herreweghe's nuanced leadership with supple fluency. Herreweghe draws a bright, vibrant sound from his singers and instrumentalists. His approach to the music is fleet and buoyant, and the musicians respond to his tempi with agility. This reading is nearly 10 minutes shorter than the average version, but it never feels hurried. The group's instrumental ensemble, using period instruments, can produce a full, colorful, rounded sound in the larger choruses, but pares its tone to appropriate leanness in movements like the alto solo Agnus Dei. The horn obbligato in the bass solo Quoniam tu solus sanctus is particularly impressive, especially since it is played on a natural horn. The five vocal soloists are not international superstars but they are expert interpreters of this music, technically solid and distinguished in the purity and expressiveness of their voices. The sound of the Out Here CD is clean and crisp, and somewhat on the bright side. In music of this contrapuntal intricacy, that clarity makes it easy to hear Bach's elaborate interweaving of lines. The ambience is not lacking in warmth and depth, though, and the balance and stereo definition are excellent.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Missa in h-moll, BWV 232
1 1:59
2 1:53
3 4:21
4 2:49
5 2:44
6 4:02
7 4:47
8 3:28
9 2:22
10 4:55
11 2:46
12 3:30
13 2:48
14 5:05
15 2:49
blue highlight denotes track pick