Sunday Afternoons With Bach

I’ve listened to several works of classical music this summer that are new to me, but I don’t think I’ve liked any of them more than I have these two pieces by Bach, his St. Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor.  They’re quite long and I’ve only heard each once, so I can’t write about them in any meaningful detail; all I can say is that I like how they sound.

What’s struck me the most about them is their pervasive, ubiquitous piety.  These two major works by one of music’s great masters are also artifacts of pure faith, resonating with reverence in every note.  Like his contemporary Handel’s Messiah (a couple of individual pieces from which are familiar to everybody), both of these are suffused with the sublime and elevate praise to that refined plane of existence known as art.  Truly moving.  In fact, the first time I listened to St. Matthew Passion, one of my main impressions was, I should listen to this on Sunday afternoons

I’ve also learned this summer what  a great classical music tool YouTube can be.  Not just private interpretations, but frequently entire concerts, in full orchestra, are archived there, in versions of exquisitely professional quality.  Not only that, but longer works such as these two are usually available for viewing on a playlist, where the bite-sized clips apparently required by YouTube can be strung together in a continuous order for nearly seamless enjoyment.  Press “play all” and enjoy your night at the symphony, or your pleasant Sabbath afternoon.

4 comments on “Sunday Afternoons With Bach

  1. Since I beat on you last time, I thought I’d encourage you this time. You have excellent musical instincts – these are truly masterful works. The B Minor Mass is on my top-ten-pieces-ever-written list. May I recommend that you invest in the John Elliot Gardiner recording of this piece. There are a million recordings and this is our favorite. If you’d like some other suggestions for classical Sunday listening…

  2. Jane, I had no problem with your last comment–just pleased as punch that you think I’m worthy of thought at all!

    Alas, my library doesn’t have a Gardiner recording. I see some clips on YouTube, but not much. I may just have to break down and buy a copy :)

    Please, yes, I absolutely DO want any recommendations you or anyone else can give. I love good ideas!

  3. OK, try these to start: (I don’t know your present comfort level for sacred choral music, so I’m keeping it pretty friendly)

    Rachmaninoff Vespers (the Estonian Chamber Choir recording is excellent – the water must have something special in it in Eastern Europe. No American choir has the basses to compete)

    Brahms’ German Requiem (there are bunches of recordings of this that are excellent, including the MoTabs with Craig Jessop

    Bruckner Motets (Matthew Best and his group have done the definitive recording)

    There are several Requiems you should try if you don’t know them, including Mozart, Faure, Durufle, Verdi (some call this his “other” opera), etc. The two French composers are different enough from the “German” school that they may take more than one listen to appreciate.

    Should get you started. If you are comfortable sending me your snail mail address, I’ll send you a couple of other CDs.

  4. Jane, wow! This is great! I’ll start finding these and report on them, one at a time, as I listen.

    I actually wrote about Mozart’s Requiem a few weeks ago.

    You want to send me CDs? Double wow–that’s extremely generous! Drop me a line at and I’ll gratefully accept any musical gifts you care to spread around!

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