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Friday, August 06, 2004
  Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, Credo: Symbolum Nicenum, b) Confiteor
Johann Sebastian Bach
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Tracks 15-17

Sadly, I have performed in many modern sacred musical messes; Christmas pageants and the like that enthrall the musically illiterate with a line up of bombastic endings. There is much church music and much about church that I love. However, it seems to me, at times we ignore much of our heritage. One lesson from the Mass in B Minor is that it is effective to not end big every time.

Being clever, but not for the sake of being clever, all of Bach's imitation and fancy counterpoint has purpose. The voice crossings, close ranges, and similar lines may have been the qualities that the early Baroque composers hoped to discourage. And this is not the clarity of voices that is generally associated with Bach. Much of the detail seems to have been written more for the performer than the listener. Nevertheless, it is a complex sound that achieves large scale events. And these events are well controlled because of Bach's clever technique.

What I like about this quiet bunch of noodles is that it arrives at an Adagio instead of a high-pitched culmination of Latin-gone-wild. This is, of course, a purposeful delay of the promised wham-bam. The surprise move to an Adagio is a wonderful set up for the following Et expecto resurrectionem that concludes the Credo.

Read also Jens F. Laurson's recommended recordings of Bartók's string quartets, Charles T. Downey's remembrance of Nadia Boulanger, Jessica Duchen's response to Clive Gillinson's career move, and Helen Radice's appreciation for administration.
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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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