J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Mass in B minor

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Hermann Scherchen
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Vienna Academy Chorus
Soloists:Pierrette Alarie, soprano
Leopold Simoneau, tenor
Nan Merriman, alto
Gustav Neidlinger, bass
Willy Boskowsky, solo violin
Franz Holeschek, organ
Individual Works:Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Deutsche Grammophon
Catalog Number:471 253-2
Year Released/Recorded:1959
Total Playing Time:134:45
Comments:Eran Zamir said:

This is a reissue of a 1959 recording that was released on the Westminter label. This reviewer is used to more "modern" versions, such as the 1974 Karajan recording, so it was hard to get used to Scherchen's. However, I have slowly come to appreciate the tempos that Scherchen used. In many of the "slow" parts, especially the Kyrie, he keeps it slow and steady. This would normally seem plodding, but here Scherchen brings out the true majesty of the piece. This approach makes this recording one that must be enjoyed leisurely and carefully. Moreover, he imparts the right amount of energy to the "faster" parts, such as "Et ressurexit" and "in gloria dei Patris." Scherchen found the right balance of tempos for the work overall, which gives his recording a unity that is lacking in Karajan's.

The vocal soloists are good, but I would hesitate to say they are the best soloists for this piece. The instrumental soloists, including the oboists, are first-rate.

The problem with this CD set is that it was made in 1989, and apparently re-mastering techniques were not as good back then. The balance is uneven in several parts, although the sound is quite clear. I don't know if MCA has reissued this recording again (at least, I have not seen it anywhere), but I hope they do so.

David Weininger said:

DG has taken over the reissuing of Westminster recordings, and it's been terrific having many of Scherchen's old recordings available again. None is more welcome than this one, though. This is Bach of tremendous weight and emotional resonance. Whatever the recording lacks in clarity it more than makes up for sheer grandeur. Scherchen is at his best in making clear the architecture of the larger movements, such as the opening chorus. Very much worth a listen.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Eran Zamir
  • David Weininger
Date First Submitted:07/19/2002