Sometimes you come across a performance that may not be exactly to your taste, but is nonetheless so persuasive of its type that it disarms criticism. This is one. It’s not quite a “one to a part” interpretation of the work, but with 10 choristers and eight strings, it is intimate, and that always risks minimizing the majesty that Bach built into the Sanctus, the eight-part Osanna, and the choruses with trumpets and drums. Jos van Veldhoven addresses this issue head-on, compensating with swift tempos and a light, dance-like treatment of rhythm that’s wholly captivating. His handling of solo vs. ripieno vocal parts in the choruses is particularly imaginative and texturally varied (try the opening of the Credo, given to the soloists). The result has great vitality and conveys real joy (once past the opening Kyrie, of course).
Veldhoven also has an impressive lineup of soloists, with alto Matthew White’s Qui sedes and bass Peter Harvey’s Quoniam making this account of the Gloria one of the most polished and satisfying on disc (and tenor Charles Daniels is pretty terrific in the Benedictus as well).
Channel Classics, the industry leader in turning out state-of-the-art multichannel recordings, provides sound that matches the performance: bright, transparent, but still warm and solid. It’s also worth mentioning that the packaging and presentation, with a massive booklet produced in association with the Museum Catharijneconvent, is beyond deluxe, making this set a beautiful gift candidate. I do prefer performances, even those using period instruments, on a larger scale, but within the wide range of legitimate interpretive options in this work (which we must remember Bach never heard in its final form), Veldhoven delivers a well-nigh perfect realization of his enlivening vision, and he deserves full credit for his achievement. [12/3/2007]