J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Epiphany Mass

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Paul McCreesh
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Gabrieli Consort and Players
Soloists:Ann Monoyios, soprano
Angus Davidson, Alto
Charles Daniels, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass
James O'Donnell, Organ
James Johnstone, Organ
Individual Works:Cantata BWV 65 "Sie Werden aus Saba alle kommen"
Cantata BWV 180 "Schmuecke dich, o liebe Seele"
Missa in F, BWV 233
Sanctus in D, BWV 238,
Chorale, BWV 323, "Gott sei uns gnaedig"
Prelude in C, BWV 567
Fantasia in G, BWV 572
Prelude, BWV 603, "Puer natus in Bethlehem"
Prelude, BWV 611, "Christum wir sollen loben schon"
Prelude, BWV 619, "Christe du Lamm Gottes"
Prelude, BWV 654, "Schmuecke dich, o liebe Seele"
Prelude, BWV 657, "Nun danket alle Gott"
Prelude, BWV 719, "Der Tag, der ist so freudenlich"
Prelude, BWV 734, "Nun freut euch"
Prelude, BWV 738a, "Vom Himmel hoch"
Pachelbel, Fantasia in E flat
Pachelbel, Toccata in B flat
Hymn, "Puer natus in Bethlehem"
Hymn, "Was fuercht'st du, Feind Herodes, sehr"
Hymn, "Wir glauben all an einen Gott"
Hymn, "Ein Kindelein so loebelich"
Hymn, "Was soll ich, liebstes Kind"
Hymn, "Nun freut euch"
Hymn, "Christe du Lamm Gottes"
Hymn, "Vom Himmel hoch"
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:DG Archiv
Catalog Number:457 631-2
Year Released/Recorded:1997
Total Playing Time:159:59
Comments:Simon Crouch said:

Paul McCreesh's reconstruction bandwagon reaches 1740's Leipzig to give us a wonderful sound canvas of an Epiphany service from St. Thomas's. The cantata performances are good (a little fast, maybe), the mass performance very good, the organ fine and the hymn singing is excellent. Even the sermon is survivable! (A six minute paraphrase of a standard Luther sermon is included. Perhaps DG missed a trick by not including the full hour in the booklet! It's worth noting a rarity in BWV 738a. The CD's both run to eighty minutes (give a second), so you need to set aside a whole evening to listen to this - but do so, I recommend this highly!

P.Möbius said:

I was pleasantly surprised by the concept underlying this recent release. Archiv attempt to place J.S. Bach's church music in a broader cultural context by presenting a full reconstruction what a Holy Epiphany morning service (Hauptgottesdienst) at St. Nicolas or St. Thomas Leipzig may have sounded like in the last decade of Bach's life. This includes the spoken/chanted parts of the liturgy.

The recordings were made at a small village church in the Ore Mountains (Saxony) and at Freiberg Cathedral which has a fine Silbermann organ. The hymn singing of "native" Saxon congretational choirs greatly enhance the authentic flair.

Gabrieli Concort & Players and soloists put on a superb period performance. The ensemble size reflects what is likely to have been available in Bach's day and age. Archiv sound engineering deserve special praise for avoiding the "fuzziness" pitfalls of church accoustics and yet preserving a highly authentic sound.

Listening to recording for the first time I had a massive "flashback" to my childhood years in Dresden and became quite homesick for a couple of hours. What does this say about authenticity?

This excellent recording clearly is a must-have for the genuine Bach collector. I love it!

Steven Langley Guy said:

The Cantata BWV 65 is unusual in that it features horns played at trumpet (soprano) pitch. The result is unique. The rest of the ensemble consists of strings, 2 treble recorders, 2 oboes da caccia and continuo. Quite a 'magical' sound - a little like the sounds of BWV 1 'Wie schon leuchtet der Morganstern'. A nice performance of music that really can't be realised on modern instruments. This whole double CD set is a total Bach-fest and every JSB nut should buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy. (Probably not necessary to steal a copy as its commonly available).

Mark Graves said:

Paul McCreesh has made his mark in the recording world with his numerous reconstructions of historical liturgical services -- thus furthering the cause of Historical Performance Practice by not only using period instruments, performance styles, and pronunciation, but also by placing the music in its historical context and recording it in an appropriate Space. His recordings of the Morales and Victoria Requiems, Gabrieli, Monteverdi, and Schutz are all groundbreaking in that regard, and with this recording he adds the world of 18th-century Leipzig Lutheran Pietism to the list.
It's quite breathtaking to hear (excellently recorded and performed!!) works by Bach, in this case two cantatas and a Missa Brevis, in the context of a mid-18th century worship service. The whole project works because, unlike in modern liturgy, almost the entire service is sung -- although the record also includes excerpts from a Martin Luther sermon!
This is certainly not a recording for the casual Bach listener, or even the "let's put on some Brandenburgs while we entertain guests" Bach lover -- this recording requires engaged listening. It's a fascinating exploration into the sound-world of an earlier time, and presents the music the way Bach and his contemporaries would have understood it.
McCreesh juggles the "Bach choir" debate with a reasonable compromise: for one of the cantatas, he uses one-on-a-part soloists, and for the other uses a somewhat larger choral group. Both are remarkable successes in their execution.
The organ playing is masterful, and all of the musicians sparkle.

Vlad Jockovic said:

The Epiphany Mass not one of the most popular works by Bach, but unlike Bach's other masses where there is more of flow of orchestra and chorus, this piece does not do all of that, it really is a "mass"; at times with no orchestra or chorus to accompany some solos. On other intervals there is that Bach signature of full orchestra and chorus but only limitly, this album is definitly not for first time buyers of Bach,(I would suggest Mass in B, Magnificant,or St.Matthew's passion)this album is for others who would like to have a deeper or extensive appreciation for Bach, but overall its fine, but don't expect Bach the collosal in this one, I'm sure there should be enough of satisfactory moments in this recording that it would be a great collector's item for a Bach enthusiast.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Simon Crouch
  • P.Möbius
  • Steven Langley Guy
  • Mark Graves
  • Vlad Jockovic
Date First Submitted:12/19/1998