JC Bach: Missa da Requiem; Miserere – review

Ruiten/Sandhoff/Balzer/Bauer/RIAS Kammerchor/Academie für Alte Musik Berlin/Rademann (Harmonia Mundi)

Following on the heels of the release of John Eliot Gardiner's disc of music by Johann Sebastian's older cousin, Johann Christoph Bach, come these choral works by Johann Christian Bach (1735‑1782). The youngest son of JS Bach, he was friends with Mozart, and spent much of the last two decades of his life in London. Both the Requiem and setting of Psalm 50, Miserere Mei Deus, are early works. They were composed in 1757, when Bach was finally ridding himself of the influence of his family and gaining his first success in Italy, where he would convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism and eventually become organist of Milan Cathedral. The Requiem is a strange, heterogeneous piece, which sets only three sections of the traditional requiem mass: the Introit, Kyrie and 12-part Dies Irae sequence. The earlier sections are exercises in 16th-century plainsong-based polyphony and only in the final sequence does his music find its own expressive voice. In many ways, the Miserere is a more convincing work. It's conceived on a grand, imposing scale, with carefully plotted tonal architecture and, as Hans-Christoph Rademann's performance shows, an orchestral accompaniment of great imagination and variety.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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