<< -- 3 -- Pippa Hare A PERFECT MARRIAGE OF MUSIC AND THEOLOGY
Bach's profound spiritual conviction is surely the very soul of his sacred works, creating -- as here -- a perfect 'marriage' of music and theology.
Although not originally planned to be heard as a single work, being pieced together over a period of 25 years (The Kyrie and Gloria, for instance, are based on a Lutheran Mass Bach wrote and performed in 1733), the B minor Mass appears to have been conceived in the Italian opera tradition, with many numbered movements. Most are borrowed from pre-existing works of his own; indeed the only 'original' section was the 'Confiteor' from the Credo.
The four major sections date from four different periods of Bach's life; the whole work was finally assembled in 1749. The Sanctus which he wrote first was composed in 1724 and was frequently performed during his lifetime. The Osanna was finished while Bach was ill in bed, by that stage presumably contemplating his own mortality. He died in 1750 before hearing the complete work, although he never actually expected it to be performed in entirety. The work did not acquire the title we know it by, 'Mass in B minor', until the nineteenth century.
The sequence of choruses, solos and duets accompanied by muted strings with, in turn, obbligato solo flute, oboe and horn, all supply inspiration and underline the work's deep spirituality.
Murray Stewart's joint choir sang the opening Kyrie with precision and excellent definition. This was followed by the soprano duet 'Christe, Eleison', sung with a wonderful sensitivity by sopranos Natalie Clifton-Griffith and Frances Bourne. Despite a slightly weaker start to the Gloria, the chorus soon found their feet again, to an accompaniment of trumpets, gentle strings and solo flute. Natalie was joined by the tenor Matthew Beale, whose very attractive, mellow sound combined attractively with solo flute, cellos and violins.
Likewise in 'Qui sedes ad dexteram patris', counter tenor William Towers' imposing voice paired splendidly with a seemingly tireless oboist; one could have listened to the latter's beautiful, finely articulated playing for ever. A wonderful movement.
Copyright © 5 March 2005
Pippa Hare, Kent UK