Bach: Lutheran Masses II

Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki
BWV 233, 234 + Peranda: Missa in A minor

This is the second volume of the Lutheran Masses produced by Suzuki’s forces (the first volume was reviewed in the EMR for June 2015) and here the additional material is the Missa in A minor by Marco Gioseppe Peranda (1625-75), for which a substantially different group of singers leads the vocal team.

In the A major Mass, Suzuki’s performance seems at its usual alpha peak, and his liner-notes chronicle the sources from which the opening of the Gloria and other movements were parodied, without getting drawn into a discussion of whether the work (which dates from 1738/9) was created for a Christmas celebration, as suggested by A Mann: Bach’s A major Mass: A Nativity Mass?  in 1981, which would make sense of the scoring and the remarkable way that the unison Flutes add a fifth voice on top of the four vocal lines in the meditative recitativo-like Christe, which always seems to me to be one of Bach’s most graphic representations of the Incarnation. The flutes are fluent, the singers taut, and the shift between single voices and tutti in the Gloria managed so naturally that you hardly recognize the difference.

In the F major Mass, the Kyrie seems to have come from a pre-Leipzig period while the final cheerful movement with the horns is based on the opening chorus of Cantata 40, for the day after Christmas in 1726. Suzuki’s forces give energized and fluent performances of this mass too. works

The Peranda Mass is new to me, and is full of stile antico  contrapuntal writing, which may well have appealed to Bach. Peranda spent his mature years as one of three (with Schütz and Bontempi) to hold the title of Court Kapellmeister at Dresden. Bach acquired a copy of a Kyrie in C minor c 1710 and during the Weimar period made a set of parts of at least the Kyrie of Peranda’s A minor mass, though a later version seems to have included wind parts as well. On many occasions Bach must have used other composers material either straight or adapted in some way in his regular presentation of Sunday music.

As in Vol. I of Suzuki’s Lutheran Masses, these performances are natural and will repay repeated listening. You will never be irritated by quirky moments or tempi shouting out for attention. This is Bach that is recognizably Bach.

I am developing a penchant for any form of packaging other than that of the plastic, hinged boxes that snap so easily, hence only four stars: perhaps if these two CDs of Lutheran Masses are reissued together, we can have a hinged cardboard box, with room for a more substantial booklet that discusses performance practice and details the instruments and the tuning/temperament issues as well as the parody ones?

David Stancliffe