Masaaki Suzuki / Bach Collegium Japan

Beethoven: Missa solemnis

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Because Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan raised the bar for period-style performances of the complete cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach, listeners can easily anticipate what this esteemed ensemble can accomplish in other great choral works. This recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Op. 123 offers a revelatory performance that is so clear in its textures, lively in its tempos, meticulous in its execution, and detailed in its parts that this monument of western choral music seems to have shaken off all the mossy accretions of nearly two centuries. Suzuki retains the expansive, even cosmic, feeling of Beethoven's greatest mass, while keeping the music lean, focused, and fluid, avoiding any association with conventional weightiness and excessive reverence. Indeed, this Missa Solemnis at times sounds nearly Mozartian in its bright sonorities and clear textures, yet lacks nothing of the heaven-storming power and profoundly human expressiveness that Beethoven put into his late masterpiece. The chorus is quite clear in its textures, and the quartet of soprano Ann-Helen Moen, mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu, tenor James Gilchrist, and baritone Benjamin Bevan is warmly expressive and evenly matched in vocal quality and strength. This hybrid SACD captures the orchestra with vibrant sound in the responsive acoustics of Kawaguchi Lilia Music Hall, and BIS' multichannel sound provides the necessary spaciousness to give the music room to breathe. Highly recommended.

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