Friday, 16 January 2009

231. Ludwig van Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (1823)


Title: Missa Solemnis
Performers: Eva Mei, Marjana Lipovsek, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Robert Hall, Arnols Schonberg Choir, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Director: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Year: 1992
Length: 1 hour 22 minutes


Wow. This is probably the most impressive mass that we have had here and very likely that we will ever have. Interestingly it is not very popular, this is due to the fact that it is not only huge and sprawling but that it demands so much expertise to play that it will never be attempted by your school orchestra.

Beethoven really did not skimp on this one. There are very few repeats throughout, it sounds like a long ever changing piece of music and each bit is more impressive than the one that came before.

It just sounds so original and different than any other choral work we have had here, that it is a real joy to listen to. Beethoven experiments with the limits of the possible to perform with his distinctive disrespect for performers. He was just in it for the music, the fact that almost no one would be able to perform it was not his concern. Fortunately Harnoncourt manages and this is completely otherworldly.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The orchestration of the piece features a solo quartet, a substantial chorus, and the full orchestra, and each at times is used in virtuosic, textural, and melodic capacities. The writing displays Beethoven's characteristic disregard for the performer and is in several places both technically and physically exacting, with many sudden changes of dynamic, metre and tempo. This is consistent throughout, starting with the opening Kyrie where the syllables Ky-ri are delivered either forte or with sforzando, but the final e is piano. As noted above, the reprise of the Et vitam venturi fugue is particularly taxing, being both subtly different from the previous statements of the theme and counter-theme, and delivered at around twice the speed.

The orchestral parts also include many demanding sections, including the violin solo in the Sanctus and some of the most demanding work in the repertoire for bassoon and contrabassoon.

The difficulty of the piece combined with the requirements for a full orchestra, large chorus, and highly trained soloists, both vocal and instrumental, mean that it is not often performed by amateur or semi-professional ensembles, who otherwise perform a great deal of repertoire.


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