Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Mass in B minor BWV 232
Magnificat BWV 243
Cantata 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' BWV 80
+ CD-ROM L'Universe of Bach.
Philippe Herreweghe - director
Harmonia Mundi HMX 2908110.12
£26.95  AmazonUK   AmazonUS $35.97

Messe en si mineur BWV 232

Johannette Zomer - soprano
Gens - soprano
Scholl - alto
Prégardien - tenor
Kooy - bass
Müller-Brachmann - bass
Collegium Vocale
Herreweghe - director

Magnificat BWV 243
Cantate BWV 80 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott'

Barbara Schlick - soprano
Mellon - soprano
Lesne - alto
Crook - tenor
Kooy - bass
Chapelle Royale
Collegium Vocale


These recordings from 1996 & 1990 (Magnificat & Cantata) have been brought together in a 3-CD box which contains also a state-of-the-art CD-Rom which will give endless entertainment and enlightenment to those experienced navigators who can spare it the necessary time. Readers of S&H will be familiar with my high regard for Philippe Herreweghe, whose Bach interpretations I have admired for many years and enjoyed on many occasions in London & abroad, recently the B minor Mass in St Sebastian and the St John Passion in Zurich. I have also recommended his recordings on Chandos of the shorter Lutheran Masses .

Herreweghe uses a small choir and 'authentic' instruments of the period and ensures that obliggati make their full effect; the soloists blend in with the music and do not dominate assertively. There is a feeling of unaffected 'rightness' throughout. Rather than rehearsing all the good qualities of Herreweghe's way with these great works I would suggest that readers navigate these links to earlier reviews, especially those who may not be accustomed to doing so.

That would stand them in good stead for tackling the CD-ROM L'Universe of Bach The Companion, which could occupy literally hundreds of hours, so massive (and, to me, daunting) is its scope. Whether buyers will have the degree of motivation or patience it requires is questionable and I offer only a personal preliminary reaction after looking around for a mere half an hour. It invites you through a tunnel to explore J S Bach's life and the ramifications of his family in fullest detail and to access tributes by the greatest performers (and some sharp-tongued criticisms by fellow organists) by clicking on each letter of his name. An almanac will demonstrate his daily programme in Leipzig. Two voices lead you through The European Context, Several Baroques?, Keywords in Baroque Music, J.S.B's Germany to an overview of The Essential Works of his 1126 numbered compositions. Finally with The Composing Machine you have an opportunity to compose your own canons and fugues and to harmonise a chorale before tackling the Quiz. It was slow to load (though apparently should start up in a few seconds) with a long introduction which I was unable to by-pass. I did not find any scores, which was disconcerting; the CD-ROMs I have valued most provide the score to read   on-screen whilst listening - L'Universe of Bach all works by sound and graphics, even the composing exercises, which is an interesting approach but not one to my personal taste. I found it visually a triumph of the computer programmer's art, with a selection of chapters introduced with delectable graphics and illustrations, but all in all insufferably clever. I look forward to a thorough assessment by a Bach specialist computer buff.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: