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Fanfare Magazine: 33:6 (07-08/2010) 
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Reviewer: George Chien

Mirare’s new Bach Magnificat comes with three bonuses. First is its unexpected discmate, the wonderful but still relatively unfamiliar “short” Mass in G Minor. Next are two supposedly related organ pieces, but the Fugue on the Magnificat is not based on Bach’s Magnificat, but on the so-called “German Magnificat,” Meine Seele erhebet den Herren, and the G-Major Prelude and Fugue, possibly a test piece for Wilhem Friedemann to play at an audition and once thought to have been a product of Bach’s maturity, is now assigned to the early Weimar years, long before the Lutheran masses took shape. The third bonus is a separate video DVD, not of a performance but of the process of recording the Magnificat.

The vocal works are sung one-to-a-part, but with a slightly expanded string section (eight violins, three violas, two cellos, a bass), together with the requisite winds, timpani, and keyboards. The Magnificat, in particular, strikes me as being a severe test for a vocal quintet, and in a very few of its more manic passages—the Fecit potentiam, for example—one gets an uneasy feeling that the singers are scrambling. More often than not, though, they are, as they must be, quite splendid, and so deserve to be named: Maria Keohane and Anna Zander, sopranos; Carlos Mena, countertenor; Hans-Jörg Mammel, tenor; and Stephan MacLeod, bass. Philippe Pierlot’s direction is thoughtful and effective. He gives the Mass its full due, as well, and challenging his singers with breakneck tempos in the second and third choruses, to which they respond triumphantly. I have no qualms about recommending the disc, though I am still inclined to favor the choral sound. Hickox (Chandos), Koopman (Challenge), and Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi) still top my list of Magnificats. For the Lutheran masses you can’t go wrong with the complete sets by Koopman (Challenge) and Herreweghe (Virgin).

The video isn’t Casablanca or Roman Holiday, and it’s certainly not a likely candidate for repeated viewings, but it is fascinating on its own terms. Toward the end, conductor Pierlot muses, “People will see how boring it is to record an album.” Maybe not. 

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