Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Beethoven from the heart

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

At the top of the autograph score of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis the composer wrote the motto "From the heart, may it return to the heart!" Conductor Masaaki Suzuki has made this the keynote of an impressive new recording of this late work, emphasizing the very personal, almost ecstatic spirituality Beethoven added to what might not have seemed at first a congenial musical project. Suzuki is a deeply religious man, whose faith infuses all the music he makes, and he begins by taking seriously Beethoven's setting in a liturgical context. Beethoven's Christianity may not have always been orthodox, but it was always sincere. Indeed, I don't think he had an insincere bone in his body! So there's indeed a Bachian (and Handelian) air about this music, and Suzuki also highlights the other older sources Beethoven brings in (which the composer referred to as "the monk's Church chorales". But Suzuki remains true to the score, and with some by now unsurprisingly perfect choral singing from his amazing choir, he brings true authenticity, but also a new freshness and immediacy to this sublime music. The soloists are also all first-class. I was especially impressed with tenor James Gilchrist, who made a strong impression as The Evangelist in John Eliot Gardner's recent St. Matthew Passion, and mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu, so good in Stravinsky's Pulcinella under Boulez.

This album will be released on March 2, 2018. Here is the first part of the Gloria from a live Bach Collegium Japan performance in 2017.

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