Philippe Herreweghe / Collegium Vocale

Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

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Philippe Herreweghe's 2011 recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in D major receives high marks, not only for the elegant period treatment, but also for the profound conviction of the performance. The Collegium Vocale Ghent and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées deliver the music with a somewhat smaller sound than one usually hears in modern performances; the Classical proportions of the ensembles allow details to stand out with utter clarity and the choral parts to move with greater fluidity and transparency than permitted with much larger choruses. Herreweghe's attention to the authentic instrumentation and distinctive tone colors reveals Beethoven's subtle orchestration, and the modest scale of forces permits the balancing of voices and orchestra into a lucid blend. Soprano Marlis Petersen, mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger, tenor Benjamin Hulett, and bass David Wilson-Johnson sing with great control and clear diction, and their quartet passages are remarkably coherent, despite the occasional awkwardness of Beethoven's vocal writing. Yet for all the separate features that contribute to the excellence of this rendition, their combination under Herreweghe's leadership makes this an organic and unified interpretation that is compelling for its vitality and emotional depth. Far from an exercise in historical re-creation, Herreweghe's Missa Solemnis has the ring of expressive truth, and the musicians' commitment makes this a worthy CD for any Beethoven collection.

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