Eugene Ormandy

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

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It's not as bad as it might be, but still, except as a memento of the occasion, there really isn't much reason for Eugene Ormandy's 1967 recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis to have been reissued. Columbia's stereo sound was distant and a little tubby and Sony's digital remastering is a little closer but still tubby. The singing is okay but nothing special: Arroyo's is probably the best, but Forrester, and especially Siepi, were showing their vocal age by 1967. The Singing City Choirs of Philadelphia is a fine civic choir, but not in the same class as, say, the Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of Vienna. The Philadelphia Orchestra was just past its peak in 1967, its tone was still plush but its ensemble playing was starting to sag, and it was no match for a dozen other world-class orchestras at the time. Ormandy himself was past his peak in 1967, but Ormandy was never the man for the job when it came to conducting works like Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is sublime and transcendent. Ormandy's Missa Solemnis is brisk and crisp. And who wants a brisk transcendental experience? Stick with the 1965 Klemperer, the 1974 Böhm, or the 1940 Toscanini.

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