Concert Review: Johann Sebastian Bach’s B Minor Mass
How it works
Johann Sebastian Bach’s B Minor Mass was performed on August 2nd, 2012 in the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Prom 26. It was performed by the English Concert and Choir under the direction of Harry Bicket. The concert is broken into several sections, including the Kyrie, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, which each have many pieces within them. The music in the concert originates from the Baroque era and many of the musicians specialize in the Baroque.
Starting with the Kyrie, a bold opening statement is made.
The chorus allows for the important moments in each piece to be featured while filling the empty space with a well-balanced sound. Carolyn Sampson’s solo is accompanied by the violin in this movement. The male and female altos sing in a low register which creates a rich sound in the Kyrie and the slower movements within the Credo. The Kyrie is played from the very beginning of the concert to approximately fifty three minutes in.
The entire work is based on symmetries and the key one is featured in this section, the Credo. The slow Credo movements describe the life and death of Christ in a simple way, focusing on the harmony created by Bach. The beginning portion that represents the life of Christ builds, leading to a section that seems to slowly die out. I interpret that this represents the death of Christ because it is followed by an extremely fast-paced and exciting section which I would assume represents the resurrection. The high-energy section is filled with several trumpet players playing creating an example of polyphony. I found this to be the most interesting part of the concert because I could clearly place a plot to go with the music which gave me a more emotional connection to the music. The Credo also featured a bass statement in the Confiteor movement which is one of the key elements of Baroque music. The Credo is played from fifty three minutes to one hour and 22 minutes.
The Sanctus featured many solos including several from bass Matthew Rose, his second solo sounding fuller and more well-rounded than the first. This section is played from one hour and 22 minutes to one hour and 30 minutes.
The Agnus Dei also featured many solos and rounded off the concert with a quiet closing. The pause before the last chorus that closes the entire concert was powerful and ended the concert in a memorable way. This section is played from one hour and thirty minutes to the end of the concert.
Throughout the entire concert many instrumental solos were featured with instruments such as flutes, oboes, violin, and horns. There was a good balance of vocal and instrumental solos, each performed well. The diction and articulation of the choir as a whole was good throughout the performance, allowing individual parts to emerge. One soloist, Ursula Paludan, performed a horn solo as an accompaniment of the Quonium. While the concert started slow and kept a steady speed throughout, there were several times where the tempo picked up which created depth and excitement. Soloists Carolyn Sampson and Joelle Harvey blended together well in their duet, with similarly airy and clear voices. They communicated well as did other soloists and also did a good job of projecting their voices to the entire audience. Many of the soloists also improved as the concert progressed, seeming to get more comfortable as they went on. Another soloist was countertenor Iestyn Davies who boasted a rich, masculine sound in his solos in the Qui sedes and Agnus Dei.
Overall, the conductor and performers did a fantastic job of performing Bach’s work and staying true to the elements he used when he first composed B Minor Mass. The conductor, Harry Bicket, kept the tempo set in a style that was just right for the current mood of each section and piece. The soloists and choir as a whole were very talented and didn’t make many if any mistakes that distracted from the overall performance quality.
Dutch violinist Janine Jansen and Amsterdam Sinfonietta perform Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” on June 24, 2014 at Internationaal Kamermuziek Festival at Tivoli Vredenburg. The concert is broken into four different concertos, each having three movements within them. The four sections represent the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. In all of the concertos a fast movement opens the concerto, with a slower movement in the middle followed by another fast-paced movement. Vivaldi’s “four Seasons” is one of the most popular pieces in Baroque music.
The violinist featured in this concert is very talented and her musicianship adds an impressive layer to the concert. It made the music very enjoyable to listen to and I personally love the violin and think it is one of the more interesting elements of classical music.
The Spring movements begin the concert and end around the ten minute mark.
The Summer concerto begins around the ten minute mark and ends at 21 minutes. In the last movement of Summer the music seems to resemble a thunderstorm which matches the texture of the music to the season.
The Autumn movements begin at 21 minutes and end around 32 minutes.
The Winter concerto begins around 32 minutes and finishes off the concert. These movements feature the high strings which create sounds that mimic icy rain like we would associate with winter. Featuring string sections is one of the main characteristics of Baroque music.
This was my favorite out of the two concerts I watched and listened to. I enjoyed being able to relate the sounds and elements of the music to specific emotions, sights, and sounds that we associate with certain seasons. It made the music much more interesting to listen to and made me listen closer to the music to try and find things that were characteristic of the season.