Helmuth Rilling conducts Mass in B minor

I seldom write about the concert I attended when I am not a lay audience. But for the recent concert of Mass in B minor, there are two reasons that I take the liberty to make an exception.

The high-standard, refined musicking by the Hong Kong choir Die Konzertisten is surprising and gratifying. This is perhaps the best Bach delivered by a chorus made up of predominantly Hong Kong singers. It is not perfect; they were overwhelmed by a medium-sized orchestra at glorious tutti like Cum sancto spiritu, and they could have firmer diction over Kyrie eleison. But they managed to deliver the music with a perfectly blended voice, natural phrasings and utmost devotions. The two-hour Mass poses challenge to the stamina of every person who sings in it, but they managed to keep the energy and intensity till the end.

Helmuth Rilling celebrated the Mass with assertiveness and effectiveness that brought substantial quality to the performance. His economical gesture invited subtle responses from the musicians, both the choir and the orchestral musicians of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, which transpired the muses. The result is a solid, integral Bach.

I was not in the concert hall while the music was happening; I recorded for a radio broadcast that happened yesterday. You may listen to the broadcast here.

Two anecdotes. Shortly before the concert, I wrote on my Facebook wall complaining the name “B minor Mass” that the presenter has stubbornly used. As an editor I would have called it “Mass in B minor” in formal context, including the programme listing and essays. And as a presenter, I would limit myself in printing claims like “authoritative interpretation” in promotional materials only and refrain it from the programme book, not to mention the cover.

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