Los Angeles Music Preview: BACH’S B MINOR MASS (Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on January 20, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


First-timers to Bach’s B Minor Mass, which Los Angeles Master Chorale is offering for two performances this weekend, may possibly be overwhelmed. First of all, a glance at the 27 movement titles alone can be intimidating: “Kyrie eleison,” “Et in terra pax,” and “Qui tollis peccata mundi,” especially for the non-religious folks out there, may sound like phrases reserved for some secret society. It’s also an enormous work. The original manuscript is 188 pages, and performances usually run about two hours. Music director Grant Gershon, who clearly prefers intimate, historically informed performances of major works such as Handel’s Messiah, will be honoring LAMC’s 50th anniversary year by using 115 singers, 12 soloists, and a symphonic orchestra (the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was only 123 days old when Roger Wagner led the Mass for LAMC’s inaugural concert in January 1965).


The monumental and surprisingly accessible Mass is also a collective. Bach wrote relatively little new music for the 1749 Mass, but self-borrowed themes and movements from previous works, which he considered high points of his choral output, some dating as far back as 1712. You can handle an all-embracing summation of the man who many consider to be the greatest composer of all time, right?

Dissecting a masterpiece such as Bach’s Mass is akin to taking apart a Bruckner Symphony: It may be enjoyable for music scholars, mathematicians, and historians, but sometimes you are better off not knowing how a magician does his tricks. I suggest you let Bach’s tidal wave of genius wash over you. I know folks who return year after year to hear the Mass and have no idea what’s going on musically, they just know that they’re transported.

So prepared to be awed; LAMC promises to “blow the roof off of Disney Hall.” For those uninitiated to the Mass, it would not be wrong of me to say, “It’s big. It’s beautiful. And you’re gonna love it.”

master-chorale logo gif

photos courtesy of Los Angeles Master Chorale

Los Angeles Master Chorale
Bach: B Minor Mass
Music Director Grant Gershon
Suzanne Anderson, soprano
Elissa Johnston, soprano
Suzanne Waters, soprano
Janelle DeStefano, mezzo soprano
Michelle Hemmings, mezzo soprano
Callista Hoffman, mezzo soprano
Adriana Manfredi, mezzo soprano
Niké St. Clair, mezzo soprano
Pablo Corá, tenor
Jon Lee Keenan, tenor
Vincent Robles, baritone
Steve Pence, bass

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Saturday, January 25 at 2 pm
Sunday, January 26 at 7 pm
for tickets, call 213-972-7282 or visit www.LAMC.org
preconcert talk 1 hour prior to curtain with Gershon and KUSC Host Alan Chapman

{ 1 comment }

Jon January 23, 2014 at 10:56 am

An excellent write-up for this great piece. Very eager to “Blow the roof off Disney Hall”.

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