on 3 January 2012
I endorse R C Ross's comments about the Mass in D major. I too have known Klemperer's performance for many years and did not expect to hear it bettered, but Giulini is at least his equal here. It is smoother and more polished than Klemperer's but this does not detract, rather it enhances the nobility and beauty of this work, and the recording is much better. A point of difference is that Klemperer assigns the "pleni sunt caeli" section of the Sanctus to the soloists, while Giulini sensibly gives it to the chorus. This matter has always been controversial, with some editions of the score saying one thing and some the other, but with the full orchestra playing forte, the power of the chorus is needed to balance it - and it simply sounds more convincing.
I have loved the Mass in C major for years. It is far less well known than the Missa Solemnis, although it does not deserve to be. Beethoven wrote it during that most productive "middle" period, around the time of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, although its musical language is more restrained, more akin to that of the Fourth Piano Concerto. It is a tuneful and immediately accessible work, showing all Beethoven's mastery without the sense of strain that characterises the later work. Janet Baker is once again the alto soloist, Elly Ameling is the soprano, but the men I had not come across before. They all blend together well, so important in works like these, where there are no arias but only ensembles for the soloists. Giulini lovingly brings out every nuance of the music but does not get in its way. No point in my saying more, if you do not know this work, get it - and this is the version to get.
Beethoven said of his Missa Solemnis "from the heart, may it go to the heart". Carlo Maria Giulini has certainly achieved that with both these Masses.
on 30 June 2013
When buying this CD I was unfamiliar with the Mass in C, but very familiar with the Missa Solemnis. The Missa Solemnis is an essential composition for any fan of Beethoven and is arguably one of his best. While the Mass in C no where near as popular as the Missa Solemnis, it is also an excellent composition. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying it as much, if not more, than the famous Missa Solemnis. Both works are performed excellently by the soloists, the choir and the orchestra.While I have nothing to compare this performance of the Mass in C, this is my favourite interpretation of the Missa Solemnis.I would recommend this CD to any fan of Beethoven or of Choral Music, however I would advise those just discovering Beethoven to start with his Symphonies, Concerti and Piano Sonatas.
on 14 August 2013
I heard David Mellor, on Classic FM, (one of the very few presenters that I like, together with John Suchet) talking about legendary performances, and this was one. Giulini was a legendary conductor of music such as this (the Verdi Requiem, also). The superb soloists are Heather Harper, Janet Baker, Robert Tear and Hans Sotin, the orchestra is the London Philharmonic and the excellent choir the New Philharmonia (the choir alone was legendary at that time). The recording is excellent.
on 28 November 2010
Although, ultimately, such a claim must be futile (for what categories do we have to assess such questions?) it has often been argued that Bach's B minor Mass and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis are the two supreme peaks of all music. That is in itself of considerable interest. I mean that these two works, settings of the essence of the Christian faith, are prime contenders for this (specious) honour. Is not that fact alone some sort of palpable proof that `the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of... Christ'?
If the proposition, that these two works are supreme, is accepted (for all its pointlessness - who are we likely to convince not already convinced?) then I believe Beethoven's Missa to be the greater. That Bach's B minor Mass is, to a very large degree, a utilisation of previously composed music, music composed to texts other than the Mass, carries an implication that Beethoven's work is the greater, the more direct, subtle, psychologically, spiritually and theologically sensitive exposition of the text. The miracle, and miracle it undoubtedly is, is that Bach's B minor Mass is such a prodigy of musical and spiritual integrity.
Until recently I would have suggested that Klemperer's performance with the New Philharmonia was the supreme recorded version of the Missa Solemnis. I have known, loved and lived with that version since it was released and it has claimed my attention beyond all others - an account that possesses an innate truthfulness that few, if any, in my experience, rival let alone surpass.
Then, very recently (and far too late) I have been privileged to listen to Giulini's recording (with the London Philiharmonic, Heather Harper, Janet Baker, Robert Tear, Hans Sotin and the New Philharmonia Chorus). Giulini directs a performance that is magnificent and sublime.
From the opening orchestral phrases the performance is informed by a profound sense of understanding and commitment. The Missa Solemnis contains (you might almost say, consists of) a secession of seemingly desperate, inchoate ideas. The connecting thread is the text and the inchoate nature of the piece is itself an acknowledgement of the reality the text expresses, the incomprehensible transcendence of the the truths in the text. The particular genius of Giulini's performance is that it is a thoroughly integrated whole. Not by imposing an 'order' on the work but by a profound insight into both the musical and the theological texts. The whole work flows like liquid gold; the most testing transitions are woven with exquisite sensitivity into a seamless robe. Climactic moments are realised with overpowering majesty or terror, as the case requires. Passages of hushed awe conveyed with intense reverence, where all is suspended in a stasis of breathless devotion. The entire work is illuminated by Giulini's consummate comprehension of and identification with the score in its depths and breadth. If ever it was true that `our end is in our beginnings' it is true here.
The ideally focused recording permits the precise articulation of soloists and choir to carry the text with clarity and precision. Equally, the orchestra is presented with a naturally warm tone and balance. The dynamic range is impressive: from the mere whisperings of the Et Incarnatus...' and Sanctus, to the blazing affirmations of the Gloria and `Et resurrexit..'. The recorded balance, dynamic range and tonal truthfulness are aspects where, as a recording (as opposed to a performance) Giulini's version is far superior to Klemperer's.
As a performance I would suggest that Guilini's more `finished' manner is possibly closer to the score than Klemperer's `rough hewn' style. What I mean here is that Guilini's polished granite seems to follow better the contours of Beethoven's blueprint, Beethoven's meticulously composed score; whereas Klemperer's rugged chisel-etched sculpture, mightily impressive as it is, represents a style not wholly congruent with Beethoven's astute, immeasurably painstaking and minute attention to even the smallest detail in his score.
Be that as it may, listening to Guilini's version, after some fifty years of listening to a succession of magnificent recordings of the Missa, has opened up to me previously unrecognised psychological, emotional and, above all, theological aspects of this peerless composition.
on 28 March 2015
The above reviews sum up very nicely my thoughts apart from some comments on the soloists. The two women in the Missa Solemnis - Heather Harper and Janet Baker are absolutely fabulous, even comparing them to the women on the Levine version (Studer and Norman) I now prefer Giulini's. Robert Tear is also a revelation, not in the same league as Domingo(Levine) or Bjorling (Toscanini) but so much better than I was expecting. The only disappointment is Hans Sotin. I heard him several times in the seventies, admittedly in Wagner rather than Beethoven, and he had a stupendous voice. The Agnus Dei, my favourite bit, is thus a great disappointment until the other soloists come in. Five stars for a very deeply affecting performance and for Heather Harper , Janet Baker and especially Giulini.
on 13 September 2012
What a superb performance & recording of Missa Solemnis. The haunting Sanctus / Benedictus - like the beautiful slow movement of a violin concerto with additional vocal accompaniment - is wonderful, and so well performed. The earlier Mass, much less well known, is as good as many other, more famous pieces, but the Solemnis is absolutely stand-out.