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Efficient Beethoven - not a spiritual experience
on 28 May 2009
A quick scan of the many reviews this disc has attracted reveals a clear split between those who worship at Gardiner's shrine and those like me who remain underwhelmed. If you like your Beethoven clean, clear, pacy and energised, this is for you, but a comparison with Klemperer, Karajan or Giulini soon reveals what is lacking. There is little of the sublime in Gardiner's humanistic approach, little of the spiritually elevated, no real vertical sense; everything is efficient and well-controlled. The choir of 35 is far too small to convey any sense of their offering up the supplicatory prayer of a suffering mass of humanity and the soloists, while perfectly accomplished, cannot begin to rival the splendour of those on the sets I cite above. To me, this is like a brisk run-through to ensure that everyone knows his part before the Maestro arrives to teach how to inject feeling into the text and notes. My response could well offend and outrage Gardiner's fans, but the point of reviewing is to try to draw on one's experience to tell it the way one hears it - and I know I shall not be returning to this cold, soulless account when I can hear Karajan's soaring Benedictus or Klemperer's monumental Kyrie. I need a Missa Solemnis which helps me "touch the face of God", not learn the score.