Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

Christoph Eschenbach / Annette Jahns / London Philharmonic Choir / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Nikolai Schukoff / Anne Schwanewilms

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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis Review

by Blair Sanderson

Christoph Eschenbach's majestic reading of the Missa Solemnis in D major by Ludwig van Beethoven was recorded live on October 18, 2008, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir presenting a radiant performance that is also a cogent statement of the work. The greatness of the music certainly inspired the musicians to rise to the occasion, and to deliver a moving and compelling rendition that fully conveys Beethoven's humane expressions of religious feeling. At the same time, it produces the musical drama and excitement that draws the attention of secular listeners and admirers of the Missa Solemnis as one of the greatest achievements in western culture. In terms of style, this is a straightforward interpretation that has no trappings of authentic period performance, but that doesn't affect the quality of the orchestra's playing, which is solid throughout, and Eschenbach's pacing is as efficient as any period conductor could ask. The quartet of soprano Anne Schwanewilms, mezzo soprano Annette Jahns, tenor Nikolai Schukoff, and bass Dietrich Henschel is evenly balanced and tonally matched, and the choir's singing is agile and quite clear in diction and counterpoint. The only thing that could have improved this would have been the recording, which suffers from the limitations of stereo; the performance would have had a much greater impact if it had been captured with multichannel technology, to provide a cleaner sound and better separation of the choir and the orchestra.

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