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Johann Sebastian Bach

Mass in B minor
/2 CD/
550 Kč
...a wonderful freshness, the spirit of the dance, the celestial dance, which underlies so much of Bach’s music, beautifully brought out, very, very skillful instrumental playing. 

(Richard Wigmore, BBC Radio 3, 10/2013)


"Eine wundervolle Interpretation aus Prag: Die momentan schönste Aufnahme von Bachs h-Moll-Messe stammt nicht aus einem der Alte-Musik-Zentren wie Wien, Berlin, London oder Amsterdam, sondern aus Prag. Das Collegium Vocale 1704 unter Václav Luks ist ein Wunderchor von erhebender Jugendlichkeit, vokaler Strahlkraft und sängerischer Intelligenz. Die Tempi sind faszinierend, manchmal schnell, manchmal überraschend geruhsam. Geniales Ende: der sich vom Forte ins fragende Mezzoforte beugende Schlussakkord im 'Dona nobis pacem'
( Rheinischen Post, Wolfram Goertz, 12/2015)


Content

Hana Blažíková soprano
Sophie Harmsen mezzo-soprano 
Terry Wey countertenor 
Eric Stoklossa tenor 
Tomáš Král bass
Marián Krejčík bass

Václav Luks conductor

Collegium Vocale 1704
soprano I  Hana Blažíková (solo CD1: 1, 5, 12), Alena Hellerová, Kamila Zbořilová, Stanislava Mihalcová
soprano II  Barbora Sojková (solo CD1: 1, 5, 12), Dora Pavlíková, Marta Fadljevičová
alto  Kamila Mazalová (solo CD1: 1, 5), Marta Fadljevičová, Daniela Čermáková, Jan Mikušek (solo CD1: 12), Sylva Čmugrová
tenor  Václav Čížek (solo CD1: 1, 5, 12), Čeněk Svoboda, Sébastian Monti, József Gál
bass  Tomáš Král (solo CD1: 5, 12), Marián Krejčík (solo CD1: 1 - CD2: 6), Jaromír Nosek, Martin Vacula, Martin Schicketanz

Collegium 1704
1st violin  Helena Zemanová
violin I  Petra Ščevková, Markéta Knittlová, Jan Hádek, Martina Kuncl Štillerová
violin II  Jana Chytilová, Simona Tydlitátová, Martin Kalista, Daniel Deuter, Luca Giardini
viola  Lýdie Cillerová, Eleonora Machová, Magdalena Malá, František Kuncl
violoncello  Libor Mašek, Hana Fleková
double bass  Luděk Braný
positive organ  Pablo Kornfeld
flute  Julie Braná, Lucie Dušková
oboe  Xenia Löffler, Luise Haugk, Petra Ambrosi
bassoon  Györgyi Farkas, Adrian Rovatkay
corno  Erwin Wieringa
clarina  Hans-Martin Rux, Almut Rux, Jaroslav Rouček
timpani  Daniel Schäbe


CD 1

I. Missa (Kyrie, Gloria)

1 Kyrie eleison | Coro a 5
2 Christe eleison | Duetto (Soprano I, Soprano II)
3 Kyrie eleison | Coro a
4 Gloria in excelsis Deo | Coro a 5
5 Et in terra pax | Coro a 5
6 Laudamus te | Aria (Soprano II)
7 Gratias agimus tibi | Coro a 4
8 Domine Deus | Duetto (Soprano I, Tenore)
9 Qui tollis peccata mundi | Coro a 4
10 Qui sedes ad dexteram patris |Aria (Alto)
11 Quoniam tu solus sanctus | Aria (Basso)
12 Cum Sancto Spiritu | Coro a 5

CD 2

II. Symbolum nicenum (Credo)

1 Credo in unum Deum | Coro a 5
2 Patrem omnipotentem | Coro a 4
3 Et in unum Dominum | Duetto (Soprano I, Alto)
4 Et incarnatus est | Coro a 5
5 Crucifixus | Coro a 4
6 Et resurrexit | Coro a 5
7 Et in Spiritum Sanctum | Aria (Basso)
8 Confiteor unum baptisma | Coro a 5
9 Et expecto resurrectionem | Coro a 5

III. Sanctus

10 Sanctus | Coro a 6

IV. Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei & Dona Nobis Pacem

11 Osanna in excelsis | Coro a 8
12 Benedictus | Aria (Tenore)
13 Osanna in excelsis | Coro a 8 da capo
14 Agnus Dei | Aria (Alto)
15 Dona nobis pacem | Coro a 4


Thank you for kind support to Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and all private donors!

bar.ces.poz


℗ & © 2013 ACCENT

Details

Bach’s Mass in B Minor in New Colors

The name of few baroque composers can be associated with such a long and venerable tradition as the name of J. S. Bach, and few works in music history have been as affected by this kind of tradition to a degree such as is the case with the Mass in B Minor. For today’s performers, this situation is a great inspiration on the one hand, but on the other hand we are faced with ingrained ideas about the work that have been shaped by the aesthetics of the 19th century and by the impassioned discourse about the interpretation of Bach’s works during the twentieth century. For many decades, Bach’s big works for vocal and instrumental forces were exclusively in the repertoire of large choruses and traditional institutions, such as various Singakademie and Singverein choirs and big boys’ choirs in German-speaking countries. It is in this form that Bach’s music entered into the consciousness of the music-loving public as distinguished and sonically opulent if rather ponderously monolithic. It should be added that performances of Bach’s music by these kinds of ensembles affect not only the intensity of the sound, the reinforcement of which is justifiable by the need to perform the works at large concert venues, but also all of the other aspects of performance such as the choice of tempo, phrasing, vocal types of the soloists, size of the orchestral forces etc. Logically, for a performance of the Mass in B Minor by an eight-voice choir, the size of the orchestra must be adjusted accordingly, and the size of the accompanying orchestra in turn requires the choice of soloists with appropriately large voices. The size of the accompanying forces and the fact that the big Singverein choirs usually consisted of amateur singers would then result in adjustment of the other aspects of interpretation as mentioned above (especially tempo), and the feeling for details and refinement that Bach masterfully worked into his scores was sacrificed in favor of sonically impressive but distorted and shapeless forms burdened with the pathos and aesthetics of the late 19th century. It is in this form that the image of Bach’s music has been more deeply engraved in the consciousness of the public than we are willing to admit.


In the early 1980s, the American musicologist and conductor Joshua Rifkin created a stir in the stagnant waters of Bach interpretation, demonstrating on the basis of the Mass in B Minor his theory that the choral parts of Bach’s vocal-instrumental works were to be sung by solo voices, and these ideas were further developed by the British conductor Andrew Parrott. Suddenly there appeared an approach to Bach the revealed noteworthy facts, primarily concerning the size of the ensembles for which he composed his works. During the decades of heated debate that followed, the advocates of this theory basically defended their new vision of Bach’s music, and the impulses that arose from this discussion had a major impact on the interpretation of Bach’s works for vocal and instrumental forces. The assigning of a single singer to each vocal part in the chorus is now often claimed to be the only correct and historically faithful solution to this problem. Here, however, it is necessary to choose from between two fundamental questions: Do we want to perform the work in the most ideal form possible while respecting the composer’s intentions and the context of the period when the work was created? Or do we rather want to reconstruct the historical reality of a performance with all of the negative aspects against which the composer himself was struggling mightily? We do, in fact, know that Bach was long dissatisfied with the instrumental personnel and singers that he had available in Leipzig, and that he really was often forced to perform his works with the smallest possible forces. At the same time, however, we are fortunate to have an unambiguous document directly from the hand of the Master dated 1730 and intended for his superiors (Kurtzer, iedoch höchstnöthiger Entwurff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music / A Brief but Eminently Necessary Suggestion for the Proper Forces for Church Music), in which he clearly formulates how he envisions the ensemble required for performing music in churches. This document clearly implies that in the vocal ensemble, Bach required that the “concertists” (a singer performing both choral and solo parts) be reinforced by at least 2 “ripienists” on each part (singers performing only the choral sections). Bach’s comment is worth quoting: “Note: It would, of course, be better if the ensemble could be supplied with four singers per vocal part, so that each choir would have sixteen singers. The orchestration with trumpets and other wind instruments then brings the total required forces to between 20 and 24 players. That Bach did not hesitate to use such large numbers of musicians for a single performance is supported by the statements of contemporary witnesses about the participation of 30 to 40 musicians performing in Leipzig under Bach’s direction.

The question of the size of the forces used is noteworthy, of course, and undoubtedly of great importance. To me, however, what is even more important is the question of comprehension of Bach’s notation and comprehension of his musical language. The instruments used, how high to tune the pitch, or the size of the ensemble are all merely the tools of the trade, and any craftsman knows that more important than the tools themselves is our skill at using them. The Mass in B Minor is an extraordinarily complex work, in which Bach touched upon widely divergent musical genres and compositional techniques. The flattened impression of his music that we have inherited from the 19th century and a romanticized fascination with symbolism are reflected in the interpretation of Bach’s music to this day. One example of such a problematic reading of Bach’s score is the interpretation of the polyphonic sections composed in the stile antico (old style) generally in alla breve meter. In those sections (Kyrie eleison II, Gratias, Credo, Confiteor, Dona nobis) inspired by the counterpoint of Palestrina and notated using large rhythmic values, in order to indicate a fast tempo Bach and his contemporaries used the alla breve marking, which basically means a doubling of the tempo in relation to the notation. In his 1752 treatise on flute playing (Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen, 1752, V. 13. XVII), J. J. Quantz writes: “In four-four meter, it should be well noted that when the C for common time is struck through with a line, … it means that the notes get different values and are to be played twice as fast as if the C were not struck through. This type of meter is called alla breve or all Capella.” In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when awareness of the meaning of the marking had dwindled, performers usually emphasized the deliberately archaic aspects of these sections (reinforced by the optical impression of the notation of the music using large rhythmic values), making them inappropriately ponderous and static. It is noteworthy that this style of performing the portions of the Mass in B Minor composed in the stile antico is still usually practiced to this day, in spite of the fact that learning has made great progress and that the interpretation of the music of composers other than Bach has been transformed radically in this respect.

The organ is the predominant element in the sound of Bach’s instrumental forces. For pragmatic reasons, in concert performance in recent decades, a small, portable positive organ has been routinely used. For playing the basso continuo, however, Bach normally used big church organs, and during his day, the little portable organs were only used as a substitute when a big organ was not available. The sound of the organ pipes with their wider diameter is so strikingly different from the sound of the commonly used positive organ that we have decided to use an instrument that, while perhaps unable to compete with the instruments that Bach had available, will still make it possible to approach the balance of sound that Bach had in mind when he composed his Mass in B Minor.

Performance traditions and the habits of musicians in the 20th and 21st centuries have become blinders, preventing us from taking an unbiased view of the music of the past and from ridding ourselves of centuries worth of layers of thoughtlessly repeated clichés and of aesthetic norms passed from one generation to the next. In the case of the Mass in B Minor, what is involved is not the discovery of some sort of universal, historically-based interpretive truth, but rather the courage to examine one of the greatest works of music history without being intimidated by its monumentality, and with eagerness to discover its lovely colors in their natural beauty as revealed when the layers of performance tradition are removed.

Václav Luks, 2013
Translation: Mark Newkirk

Following two prize-winning recordings of works by Jan Dismas Zelenka (ACC 24244 and ACC 24259) highly praised by
the international press, the Prague Collegium 1704 directed by Václav Luks has meanwhile given guest performances at
the most important European concert venues. With its new CD recording, the ensemble has now conquered a milestone
in baroque choral literature: Johann Sebastian Bach's B-minor Mass. The enigma of this great Catholic Mass by the
Protestant Bach has continued to occupy musicologists to the present day. 
In accordance with the current state of research, the ensemble is set up according to the ideals of Johann Sebastian
Bach. The choir – the high-quality Collegium Vocale 1704 – provides not only choral parts, with four singers to each part,
but also the soloists, accompanied by an orchestra of 30 instrumentalists all of whom are internationally known
specialists in historically accurate performance practice. 
This new recording, the first Czech CD recording of this work on historical instruments, captivates listeners through the
special charm, lightness and great virtuosity for which this ensemble is noted, together with the extensive knowledge and
seriousness with which Václav Luks tackles his projects. Whereas a rather Protestant sobriety dominates other
recordings of Bach's great Mass, this recording is impressive for its Catholic-influenced, Bohemian joy in music-making -
with a zest for living that can be felt at all times.



Harmonia Mundi UK 
Classical New Release September 2013

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