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Thursday, August 05, 2004
  Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, Credo: Symbolum Nicenum, a) Et in Spiritum sanctum Dominum
Johann Sebastian Bach
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Tracks 13-14

Bach's ambition must have been a peculiar thing. As I understand, he was not striving for fame, wealth, or legacy. He was interested in cultivating the good potential that he saw in himself. I would not use the word "ambition" to describe this interest were it not for the unwieldy and massive accomplishment that is the Mass in B Minor. This is the work of a composer who imagined large scale events that were, well, ambitious. And though this is one of my favorite pieces, I would say that some parts are better than others.

In spite of the care that Mr. Bach apparently took in instructing the oboes of love to allow the basso to have the spotlight, they steal the show. The 'cellist also keeps pace nicely. The singer simply does not sound as good as the other three participants on this track. It may be that instrumental sophistication is still relatively new at this point in the anthology and the novelty wins. It may also be that the instrumental parts were written with more care. There are times when the singer is struggling with passages that are not flattering to the voice.

What I like about this basso workout are the notes longer than a beat. Because most of the beats are divided by triplets, the suspended notes acquire a rhythm and elegance they would not have in a less consistent piece.

Read also a lecture on Bach's Mass in B Minor as Musical Icon from Arizona.

Read also Charles T. Downey's opera recommendations and continuation on the story of a dog, as well as Helen Radice's thoughts on public funding.
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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