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Sorry, a dissenting opinion
on 20 June 2016
I'm certain I'm inviting lots of "unhelpful" votes by giving this anything less than five stars, but I think hearing a different opinion can be useful. And remember, three stars doesn't mean "dislike." But this recording is like Andy Warhol. Once Warhol became famous, everyone became blind. Everything he did (apparently) was genius. This recording too is famous, and now people seem deaf as a result. I have bought this recording multiple times, beginning back in the day on LP, and most recently a year or two ago on CD. It was the first Missa Solemnis I heard. But it has never brought me closer to this music. It was other recordings that helped me make the breakthrough to see what great music this was.
Klemperer's performance has always struck me as "monumental," or perhaps "monolithic," but not too much more. His choir sings beautifully, but the performance as a whole seems amorphous and homogenized--the movements don't (or didn't on last listening) seem well differentiated, despite the fact that in a great performance each has a distinctive mood and character. Here it's just one swelling chorus after another until it finally ends. Many years ago, I listened to this from time to time for several years without being convinced this was great music. THEN I heard the live 1940 Toscanini/NBC performance, and it was like Saul on the Damascus road (you know, the bright light of understanding from the heavens). Finally the music made sense: I could finally hear that it had structure, it had shape. it had direction, it had intense drama. And Toscanini brought both power and subtlety to his interpretation: listen to the beautiful, hushed singing of the chorus at certain moments in the Gloria, or the deeply affecting phrasing that begins the Sanctus. I've never heard any conductor who could bring such a degree of both power and nuance to this work as he did.
Believe it or not (and you should reserve judgment until you hear it), I actually like Ormandy's recording better than Klemperer's, despite the fact that his choir sounds less than ideal to me. In Ormandy's I simply hear more passion and visceral excitement than I do here. Likewise, another stereo recording with comparable or better sound quality is Kubelik's, which I would also prefer to this one. Kubelik, to some extent like Toscanini, manages to negotiate the drastic changes of expression within this piece and bring out the character of each episode while knitting them into a tightly organized and dramatically effective whole.
Klemperer's Missa is fine; you could certainly do worse; and if it has served for others as a convincing introduction to this music, then congratulations. But it just isn't at the top of my list. The "unhelpful" button is below.