J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

BBC Legends

Main Performer
or Conductor:
George Enescu
Accompaniment/Orchestra:BBC Chorus and Boyd Neel Orchestra
Soloists:Suzanne Danco, soprano.
Kathleen Ferrier, alto.
Peter Pears, tenor.
Bruce Boyce, baritone.
Norman Walker, bass ( not listed in the CD booklet. )
Leslie Woodgate, chorus master.
Viola da Gamba
Individual Works:Mass in B Minor BWV 232
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:BBC
Catalog Number:BBCL 4008-7
Year Released/Recorded:1951
Total Playing Time:132:17
Comments:George Murnu said:

The official unlocking of the BBC sound archives bought to life a string of legendary recordings, none better than the present one. Enescu had a special affinity for Bach and indeed if one searches the catalogue of recordings that Enescu left us, Bach appears more often than any composer including Enescu himself. 1951, the year in which the recording was made, was the dawn of period instruments movements and shortly such esteemed groups as Concentus Musicus were about to come to life. Though the present recording is a modern instruments one, it uses a smaller orchestra and chorus than was the norm at that time and the tempi are livelier. Enescu was already interested in authenticity and in fact once had an argument with Pablo Casals about the phrasing of a passage from a Bach Partita. Certainly such details are important and those of you who prefer *only* period instruments should perhaps stay away from this recording. But anyone else should rush to hear it. The soloists are wonderful: Danco, Ferrier, and Pears are in their splendid prime, Bruce Boyce sings "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" almost pathetically, putting meaning in every single word, and Norman Walker, who is not listed in the booklet, gives a fine reading of "Quoniam". Enescu's conducting is the stuff dreams are made of: he clearly loves the music and if today's listener may be shocked by the choice of tempi - which as I have said, are livelier than what was the norm at that time - as well as by the forward choral sound, the phrasing and warmth will keep one longing for more once the recording is finished. Just listen to these warm strings and oboes or to the delicate flutes! I have never heard the Boyd Neel Orchestra sounding better. One should not also forget the contributions of the instrumental soloists, notably George Malcolm at the continuo harpsichord.

The weak part about the recording is the sound which is often muddy, no more than in "Quoniam" where the horn played by Dougls Moore is barely audible, though often better than that. Also the balances are a problem, notably the dynamics of the trumpets and drums. Still, anybody who has slight interest in great, timeless performances of timeless music should not

Adding to what I have previously said about the recording: while it is true that some of the booklets of the initial release of this recording do not list Norman Walker's name, BBC has corrected that mistake and now Norman Walker is properly listed as the bass soloist. Whatever the booklet, this remains one of the great performances of any work of Bach, indeed one of the great performances of anything.hesitate.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • George Murnu
Date First Submitted:01/16/1999