Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Compelling Performances of Johann Christian Bach Sacred Music

The bulk of Johann Christian Bach's sacred music was written between 1754-1762. That was during his tenure as organist for the Cathedral of Milan.

This release features three large-scale Mass movements; a Gloria, Kyrie, and Credo. Bach studied counterpoint with the famed Padre martini, and there's a distinct Italianate influence evident in these works.

The Gloria overshadows the other two works in this release. The 45-minute work breaks the text into its component parts.

Each part receives its own instrumental introduction. These instrumental sections are in the sinfonia concertante style of the Mannheim School, which makes them very up-to-date.

Les Agrémens instrumental ensemble performs with a clean transparent sound of the Italian style. And they also perform with the excitement and energy of the Mannheim School. It's a blend that works and works well.

The soloists also serve the music well. I particularly liked the sound of alto Barbara Hölzl's voice. It always seemed to be right in the pocket. And her blend with tenor Lluis Vilamajo was especially satisfying.

That's not to slight soprano Valérie Gabail and bass Stephan MacLeod. Regardless of how Bach combined these solo voices, they blended well.

Johann Christian Bach or the "London" Bach is primarily remembered for his instrumental compositions. Perhaps these works will help revive the reputation of the "Milan" Bach.

Johann Christina Bach: Gloria in G major; Kyrie in D minor; Credo in C major 
Valérie Gabail, soprano; Barbara Hölz, alto; Lluis Vilamajo, tenor; Stephan MacLeod, bass Choeur de Chambre de Namur; Les Agrémens; Wieland Kuijken, director 
Ricercare RIC 128 
World Premiere Recordings

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