Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

 
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LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis
Ann-Helen Moen (soprano), Roxana Constantinescu (mezzo-soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor) / Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

[ BIS SACD / Hybrid SACD ]

Release Date: Friday 9 February 2018

Beethoven began composing the Missa solemnis in 1819, when he learned that his patron (and pupil) Archduke Rudolph was going to be appointed Cardinal Archbishop of Olmütz. The plan was for the mass to be ready for performance at the enthronement celebrations in March 1820, but one year proved to be too little time. It wasn't until almost three years later, in January 1823, that Beethoven was able to complete the work.

As might be expected, it was unparalleled in every respect -although composed for use during church services, even Beethoven's contemporaries found that it exceeded the bounds of the genre. Beethoven himself was quite aware of both the dimensions and the importance of the work: in a letter he described it as 'my greatest work'. It is also a work which over its course encompasses great contrasts: from the solemnity of the Kyrieand the intense excitement at the opening of the Gloriato the disturbing intimations of war during the closing Dona nobispacem.

Originally founded with the aim of performing the choral works of Bach, the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzukiare now taking another great leap, after their recent release of Mozart's Great Mass in C minor. Described as 'refreshingly open-hearted, spontaneous and natural' their interpretation received a 2017 Gramophone Award. Joined by an eminent quartet of vocal soloists, the team now applies its expertise in period performance to Beethoven's masterpiece.

"It is apparent listening to this brand-new release of Missa Solemnis that the Bach Collegium Japan has developed in to a top-notch ensemble. All performers are in superb form and recorded with pristine clarity and balance. The slick design and insightful essay is an added bonus. This is a must-listen - a different Beethoven comes forth with sublime beauty and insights beyond the symphony." (Nicholas Butler/Marbecks)

"BIS's presentation of this recording is first rate. The booklet contains an authoritative essay by the eminent Beethoven scholar, Dr Ernst Hettrich. They've also paid Suzuki the compliment of splendid sound. The recording, to which I listened using the stereo SACD option, is first class; there's clarity, excellent definition and an expert balance. That's as it should be, for such a considerable performance of Beethoven's mighty Mass deserves nothing less." MusicWeb July 2018

"The orchestra and chorus are comparatively small under Suzuki, the tempos slightly on the fast side, the soloists able to cope with the appalling difficulties of their music, but not outstandingly beautiful…I suspect that Beethoven would have approved of Suzuki's intransigence, so like his own, but whatever is the polar opposite of easy listening, this is it." BBC Music

"The performance has warmth, energy and an exact feeling for tempo. The Japanese chorus rise fearlessly to Beethoven's demands. A memorable musical and emotional experience" Sunday Times

Tracks:

Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123, for four solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ

Bach Collegium Japan - Missa solemnis