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Beethoven - Missa Solemnis [Blu-ray] [Alemania]
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Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Chorusmaster: Pablo Assante
Elina Garanèa, mezzo-soprano
Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano
Michael Schade, tenor
Franz-Josef Selig, baritone
Nach dem überaus erfolgreichen Thielemann Beethoven Zyklus auf DVD und Blu-ray, folgt nun Beethovens Missa Solemnis mit einem hervorragenden Sängerensemble: Elina Garanèa, Krassimira Stoyanova, Michael Schade, Franz-Josef Selig.
Seit 1951 erinnern die Staatskapelle Dresden und der Staatsopernchor mit einem alljährlichen Konzert an die Zerstörung Dresdens in der Nacht des 14.Februars 1945, 2009 dirigierte Christian Thielemann Ludwig van Beethovens Missa Solemnis.
Under Christian Thielemanns baton, the Staatskapelle Dresden proved itself exceptionally qualified to master the works challenges. Christian Thielemann conjured up the gigantic cosmos of the Missa with such lightness and grace that its mystery seemed to reveal itself. --Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Garancas voice has been described as creamy, silken and lustrous (her chest register is superbly produced)... what sets her apart, however, is the unteachable ability to send shivers down the spine. --Gramophone on a previous recording
The Chorus is impressive and the soloists well-matched. Performance ***** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine,June'11
a Dresden Missa solemnis to commemorate the end of the war. Beautifully recorded in the warm acoustics of the Dresden Semperoper. --Gramophone,July'11
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Harnoncourt gives both clarity and coherence to this sprawling work. As Levine says, "The overall effect of the Missa under Harnoncourt is one of a ceremony, one in which there are emotional outbursts that nonetheless are part of the structure and fabric." The introverted sections are treated with the utmost tenderness, and the extroverted ones are bracing with no hint of bombast.
This disc is perfect in every respect. The top-notch soloists (Marlis Petersen, Elisabeth Kulman, Werner Gura, and Gerald Finley) are well matched and work as part of the team. The Netherlands Radio Choir is excellent. The ambience and acoustics of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw are justifiably world renowned. And the videography and recorded sound (contrary to another reviewer) leave nothing to be desired.
Heretofore, my Missa of choice has been James Levine's 1991 CD with the Vienna Philharmonic. But from now on, when I want to listen to (and view) the Missa Solemnis, I will turn to Harnoncourt and the Concertgebouw.
Addendum (November 2013): This recording continues to astound and delight. James Altena gives a highly favorable review in Fanfare (November/December 2013). He praises Harnoncourt's "extraordinary ability to to sustain dramatic tension at every moment, even during the most quiet and intimate passages" and describes the vocal quartet as "among the strongest ever assembled for a recording of this work."
This excellent performance by the Royal Concertgebouw under Nicolas Harnoncourt was both visually and aurally satisfying in its BluRay format, and I enjoyed the musicianship of the chorus and the soloists. Maestro Harnoncourt did not conduct with as much passion as I expected, but that did not detract from the performance, and the forces obviously have great love and respect for him.
My personal preference would be for a somewhat larger choral group, as some of the most powerful choral sections were a little over-balanced by the demands of Beethoven's orchestra. However, this is by far the best DVD experience I have had with the Missa Solemnis.
It was, indeed, no ordinary occasion. It was observed with no ordinary performance, which was met with no ordinary reaction from the assembled audience. Fortunately, the proceedings were recorded by Unitel Classica and issued in 2011 on this Blu-ray by C Major.
Thielemann presided over this monumental Beethoven composition -- which, fittingly for the occasion, prophesies the dangers of wars to come -- with impressive composure, conducting with no score, no baton, calling no attention to himself. And when the massive work had shaken the heavens and plumbed the soul, the subdued finale, the Agnus Dei, solemnly pleads, "Have mercy on us." It's not the blazing, triumphal ending of the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven's different goal in the Missa perhaps accounts for its not being as popular or as widely recognized as the masterpiece it is. The martial sounds that intrude are disquieting, make us look over our shoulder, remind us that the peace of the Benedictus is a fragile thing, continually threatened by the chaotic, outside world -- as it was during World War II and as it continues to be in the 21st century.
The work's fading into a troubled sleep at the close often leaves listeners uncertain how to respond. In Dresden, on this day, the most remarkable thing happened. When the Missa arrived at its destined end, the members of the audience, silently, with no applause, began rising to their feet until every single person in the entire house, including those in the orchestra and choir, were standing -- and remained so, in solemn acknowledgement, with a motionless Thielemann continuing to face the orchestra. After several minutes, the audience gradually, in unspoken agreement, began filing out of the hall, individuals exchanging not a word, lost in their own meditations. It's the most moving tribute to a concert performance I've ever seen. Each time I watch it, or even think about it, I feel the emotions rise up. This audience knew how to pay tribute to Beethoven's massive edifice -- and take its warning to heart.
Besides Thielemann, concertmaster Matthias Wollong deserves to be singled out for praise. After having listened to Klemperer's EMI LP and CD for decades, I thought I would never hear another violin so perfectly float down its angelic blessings on the world at the beginning of the Benedictus. I was wrong. Among the soloists, Garanca is especially impressive. If her intoning "Benedictus" following the violin solo doesn't melt your heart, you don't have one. Ironically, but perhaps appropriately for this most sacred of secular pieces or most secular of sacred pieces, Garanca looks more enticing in the severity of a black gown than she does parading as Carmen with the Met.
Unfortunately for this moving and beautifully filmed performance, the sound engineers have favored the sopranos and shortchanged the basses. Perhaps that's why bass soloist Selig is often inaudible, even when the camera focuses on him. Amazon's catalog contains other worthy DVDs and Blu-rays of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. But despite the slight imbalance in the audio track, there's not another like this one.