J.S. Bach

Review: Mass in B Minor | Dallas Bach Society | Church of the Incarnation

Critical Mass

The Dallas Bach Society gives a transfixing performance of Bach's B Minor Mass at Church of the Incarnation.

published Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo: WikiMedia Commons
J.S. Bach
Dallas — The first notes of the Kyrie in Bach’s great B Minor Mass, as performed by Dallas Bach Society on April 11, brought chills. Despite setting such a high bar at the outset, the Bach Society delighted with the rest of the two-and-a-half hour “Great Catholic Mass”—the time seemed to fly by and the hard pews of the Church of the Incarnation were hardly noticeable. The music was that transfixing.

Bach’s Mass is a major undertaking for any group, no matter the size or budget. Getting to hear the Mass performed in as close an approximation as possible to the way it would have sounded in Bach’s day is a rare treat. It was delightful to see the church crowded with listeners on Saturday—even the balcony was occupied. Clearly Dallas audiences recognize good music when they hear it.

Oh, sure. There were some imperfections. It’s seemingly impossible to play the Baroque natural horn with consistent accuracy, and Baroque bowed string instruments are similarly fussy, the gut strings refusing to stay in tune. But that’s to be expected, no matter how skilled the ensemble, and the Dallas Bach Society orchestra uses the finest Baroque players in the area. It was the chorus and vocal soloists that stole the show Saturday night, however.

Soprano soloist Anna Fredericka Popova has always had a lovely, substantial voice. In this as in other recent hearings, she is developing an increasingly nuanced sense of early-music style that is a true joy to listen to. Mezzo-soprano Agnes Vojtko’s voice, though not huge, was beautifully resonant in the Laudamus te. Alto Nicholas Garza’s voice is not as mature as some of the countertenors we’ve heard with Dallas Bach Society, but he too has a keen grasp of Baroque performance practice. Tenor Dann Coakwell, a frequent contributor to Dallas Bach Society’s lineup, was reliable as ever with his clear, mellifluous voice in the Benedictus. Bass Curtis Streetman has effective tone and resonance, but rhythmic precision, especially in melismas, was a bit lacking.

Dallas Bach Society’s chorus was for the most part outstanding, especially the sopranos, whose voices floated over the instrumentalists and into the nave of the church with ethereal grace. One quibble: pronunciation of the “k” sound in the basses was so percussive as to be startling.

It has been more than a decade since Dallas Bach Society last presented the B Minor Mass. Here’s hoping they won’t wait so long, this time, for a reprise. 

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Critical Mass
The Dallas Bach Society gives a transfixing performance of Bach's B Minor Mass at Church of the Incarnation.
by J. Robin Coffelt

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