Monday, September 16, 2013

Overall piece length similarity can mask differences

In case the header didn't give it away, I'm talking about classical music, and about large-scale works in particular.

Given that I've had multiple posts about Mahler recently, you might guess this is another. But, it's not.

I've been YouTubing multiple recording of the Bach B minor Mass recently.

I've found three about the same length overall, around 1 hour 45 minutes, which means they're not draggy. (Please, no 2-hour performances from mid-20th century Romanticizing conductors.)

One's John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir. The first Kyrie had a quite slow start, but then got to what I would consider a decent tempo. (Gardiner to me is interesting in general. I like him on Beethoven. He does a good Symphonie Fantastique with period instruments, and a highly rhythmic Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances; the third movement alone is all worth it. But, his Mozart Requiem is draggy at the start and never recovers.)

The second is Franz Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century. I've got this on CD at home. It's got a full volume and balance. Solid tempos overall. It has less nuance in tempos than Gardiner does. In this case, it's neither all good nor all bad for either one. At the same time, there's a crispness to phrasing, subtle but audible, from

The third is one new to me: The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, conducted by Daniel Reuss. This one appears to have a bit more gravitas in spots. Also, it's in a more intimate setting, with even smaller choir size and instrumental size than the others, or so it seems. And, thus, it has very "clean" sonic lines. I do know that the basses come "out" a lot more on this recording than the others.

None is wrong, not at all.

But, overall, I like the Reuss best, followed by the Brüggen then the Gardiner. And, my opinion of the Gardiner may have been influenced by first sampling his Mozart.

Anyway, here's the Reuss. Listen for yourself.

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