Beethoven: Missa Solemnis; Mass in C

Colin Davis

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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis; Mass in C Review

by Blair Sanderson

Followers of Colin Davis' recordings know that they may not be the flashiest or most spectacular, but they are always dependable for their solid musicianship and faithfulness to the music, and few other conductors have had such a consistent track record over many decades. That is why this double CD of Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123, and the Mass in C major, Op. 86, is a reliable offering for listeners new to these works, because Davis' assured readings give an accurate and straightforward presentation of the masses without any of the distortions that can be inflicted on them. Whether it's from the exaggerated profundity of the Beethoven mythologizers or the grandstanding of star conductors involved in maintaining their own larger-than-life personae, Missa Solemnis has weathered many interpretations that make it seem inflated and bombastic; conversely, the Mass in C major is often minimized and played down as utility music, as something less than Beethoven's finest effort and somehow unworthy of a great conductor's energies. Beethoven's true genius needs no amplification, and that seems to be Davis' guiding principle, because this conductor is so self-effacing in his work, the composer's intentions, whether musical or spiritual, may be discerned quite easily. One might wish that the reproduction had better presence and resonance, but the original analog recordings from 1977 likely lost something in the 1993 digital transfer. Even so, most details are clearly audible, and the sound is certainly better than average for ADD.

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