Bernard Haitink / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

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For this 2015 release on BR Klassik, Bernard Haitink and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus present a stirring live performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's monumental Missa Solemnis, with soprano Genia Kühmeier, mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Kulman, tenor Mark Padmore, and bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann as soloists. Recorded in the Hercules Hall of the Munich Residenz, where the acoustics magnify every effect, the performance is remarkable for its power and vigor, not least in the conducting of Haitink, who was 85 at the time of the performance. Yet the expressiveness of the music is never overwhelmed by the immense sound, and the softer passages are some of the most moving, particularly in the opening of the Kyrie, the Et incarnatus est of the Credo, the Benedictus (with a poignant violin solo by Anton Barachovsky), and in the closing passages of the Dona nobis pacem. But for sheer visceral excitement, the Gloria is most spectacular in its dramatic sections for the vocal quartet and the eruptions of syncopated counterpoint in the chorus. In the interpretation, Haitink sticks to a conventional approach with modern instruments, and his tempos are a bit sedate, but his understanding of the work is thorough and he brings the spirit of Beethoven's music across with clarity and conviction. Highly recommended.

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