For Bach lovers who never have gotten comfortable with the sound of period instruments--or youngsters who want to check out how Bach was performed before the likes of Harnoncourt and Hogwood changed everything --this is as good a "conventional" 20th-century-style B-Minor Mass as you will find. Eugen Jochum packs the performance with dramatic gestures and grandeur: his mighty opening "Kyrie" hits you right in the gut; very slow tempos give the "Et incarnatus" and "Crucifixus" an imposing solemnity; the sudden hush at the start of "Et exspecto" and huge four-beat crescendo moments later are remarkable. The orchestra plays gracefully and with particularly good balance for a symphony orchestra doing Bach; the choir's blend and clarity are not ideal, but their sound is powerful and Jochum makes sure that the important lines are heard. Soprano Helen Donath sings blandly, with a vibrato so quick and wide she can only approximate pitch, but the male soloists, especially tenor Claes H. Ahnsjö, sound quite comfortable with Bach's writing. Mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender's voice seems more suited to Mahler, but she proves herself yet again a great artist. Any performance-practice purists who have strayed here accidentally should flee immediately to Herreweghe (if not Rifkin), but those who love the grand, old German tradition of Bach performance should be very pleased with this one. --Matthew Westphal
This 1952 recording is just OK, nothing to get excited about, offers 1952 recording "quality" and -- unless you're a collector obsessed with having every possible recording ever made -- offers no particular reason to buy, own or play. BOOOOO EMI.