Beethoven

A
a
-
Album title:
Beethoven
Composer(s):
Ludwig van Beethoven
Works:
Missa solemnis
Performer:
Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Marianne Beate Kielland (alto), Thomas Walker (tenor), David Wilson-Johnson (bass); Cappella Amsterdam; Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century / Daniel Reuss
Label:
Glossa
Catalogue Number:
GCD 921124
Performance:
starstarstarnostarnostar
Recording:
starstarstarstarnostar
3
Reviewer:
BBC Music Magazine
Beethoven

The Missa solemnis is Beethoven’s most demanding work, both for its performers and for its listeners. Partly that is because it defies all the expectations we have of a Mass; it struggles to believe, and it’s hard to say whether it succeeds. All settings of the Mass end with a cry for peace, but Beethoven’s is a terrified whimper, after a graphic portrayal of turmoil, with the soloists virtually screaming in supplication. Yet it begins in a monumental, assertive vein – one might say that it is a sacred work which ends as an opera, while Fidelio is an opera that ends as a sacred work. The Missa should sound like a struggle, for the most part, and this one succeeds in that. The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century plays with passionate commitment, and the Capella Amsterdam is fervent, but as always one’s throat begins to ache in sympathy. 

The soloists are not big stars, though there are places where they need to be – especially in the Sanctus, which is an endless sensuous feast, all the more luscious because of the strange mixture of the archaic and the modern that Beethoven produces either side of it. This performance is more homogeneous than many, and therefore makes for less exhausting listening than, say, Otto Klemperer’s or Carlo Maria Giulini’s. But should it? My feeling is that Beethoven himself remained, in this work, in a state of something between unease and anguish, and the performances which impress most are those that convey that.

Michael Tanner

Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
previous review Article
Dove
Dove
next review Article
We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here