Mass in b-minor BWV 232 – The greatest composition of all times and all nations
The Motet Choir of Hallgrímskirkja will celebrate its 35th birthday this year. To honor the occasion, Bach’s masterpiece, the Mass in b-minor will be performed in Hallgrímskirkja on Saturday June 10th and Sunday June 11th at two separate concerts. Both concerts start at 5 pm and are arranged in collaboration with the Hallgrímskirkja Friends of the Arts Society.
The Mass in b-minor is one of the most majestic musical compositions of all times, and its performance is always a grand event. The Mass is noted for its glorious, diverse and challenging choir movements and performing them is a task relished by the members of the Motet Choir. The last time the choir performed the Mass was ten years ago in 2007 and that concert received great accolade and a five-star review by music critics.
The soloist- and duo-movements of the mass are just as spectacular as not any less demanding. Four fantastic singers will perform them on this occasion.
The Scottish-Icelandic soprano Hannah Morrison and the English countertenor Alex Potter are among the most renowned singers in the current baroque scene, and regularly perform with highly prestigious baroque ensembles and conductors across the world. Both of them are appearing in Hallgrímskirkja for the first time. Elmar Gilbertsson tenor and Oddur A. Jónsson baritone were both members of the Motet Choir during their student years, but are now renowned professional singers and have received great acclaim both in Iceland and abroad. Oddur received the Rising Star award at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2014, and Elmar has been elected the Classical Singer of the Year at those same awards 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Performing with these great singers will be the Hallgrímskirkja International Baroque Orchestra. The Orchestra, whose members range from across the world and are all highly skilled and specialized baroque musicians, has been a regular feature at baroque events in Hallgrímskirkja for more than a decade. Their appearances have always received great reviews and have enriched the Icelandic music scene immensely. Ten years ago, when the Orchestra performed the Mass in B-minor with the Motet Choir, a critic wrote “the orchestra played flawlessly at all times, whether it was spellbindingly soft or bursting with playful energy”. The Finnish violinist Tuomo Suni leads the Orchestra.
Hörður Áskelsson, main organist and cantor of Hallgrímskirkja, and artistic director of the Hallgrímskirkja Friends of the Arts Society, will conduct the performance of the Mass in b-minor at both concerts in June.
The Mass in b-minor was first published in the 18th Century, almost a hundred years after the passing of J. S. Bach. Its publisher introduced it as the “greatest composition of all times and all nations”, a bold statement at the time as the Mass had never been performed in its whole and was not well known. But the statement proved prophetic, as the Mass quickly gained popularity and respect and now has the reputation of being considered the crown jewel of the baroque music heritage. It was one of Bach’s last compositions, which he completed during his final years of bad health and near complete blindness. He looked back at his career and repertoire and carefully selected some favorite movements of earlier pieces and compiled them with new compositions to create the masterpiece that is the Mass in b-minor. All his knowledge, technical skills and musical genius is on display in the Mass, and it can be viewed as an encyclopedia of sorts, showcasing the possibilities and magic of the polyphonic music form. Three centuries of music heritage is compacted into a two-hour composition, both coherent and disciplined while simultaneously full of life and surprises. The emotional range of the Mass is astounding, spanning everything from cheerful dancing to introspective meditation. The Mass in b-minor is truly a composition for all times and for all nations.
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