Ludwig van Beethoven

Mass for soloists, chorus & orchestra in D major ("Missa Solemnis"), Op. 123

    Description by Wayne Reisig

    Past 50, Beethoven found himself deaf, eluded by true love, rejected by the nephew for whom he had assumed a paternal role, plagued by myriad illnesses. And yet, at that point in his life, the composer wrote on the score of his Missa Solemnis, "to my God, who has never deserted me." What inner state brought humility forth from this Promethean figure, a recognition and awe of one's place in the cosmos from this fervent, defiant advocate of the dignity of humankind? In his faith he was as unshakable as Bach or Bruckner, but it was a faith forge-tempered by this inner state and fed by nature more so than scripture and spire. It was reflected in this opus 123 mountain-cathedral from the last great period which also saw the Ninth Symphony and the last quartets. Ironically, the disposition of the great mass was as earthbound as any promotional process, with the composer touting it as "the greatest work which I have composed thus far" to lure back publishers who had become wary of some of Beethoven's less ethical dealings. Here, it would seem, his word is genuine. With the "Alle Menschen" of the Ninth Symphony, the twin summits of the two mighty late works form a yin-yang of the composer's deeply held beliefs.

    The composition of the great mass occupied Beethoven from 1818 to 1823, taking it well past the occasion for which it was composed, the installation of the Archduke Rudolph as Archbishop of Olmütz. To prepare, Beethoven immersed himself in church music history for one year. The result was the essence of the composer, reverently looking back while forging ahead. In addition to soloists and chorus, the mass utilizes an organ and expanded orchestra. The five main sections of the ordinary of the Roman Catholic mass are subdivided. The opening Kyrie is marked by dramatic ebb and flow, the interaction of chorus and soloist thoroughly integrated. This is followed by the jubilant Gloria, its unbridled ecstasy initially considered unsuitable for service, with virtual shouts of Gloria forming the coda. In the Credo, this core of the Catholic faith, Beethoven utilizes old church modes in harness with his own then-modern music idiom and employs these for vivid tone painting. A warmer ecstasy pervades the Sanctus; here is Man, childlike, reaching for the Creator; perhaps the most beautiful moment occurs in its Benedictus; the effect of the solo violin is like that of a long-sought peace, descending upon and infusing the soul like balm. The Agnus Dei commences dark and brooding, later becoming, ironically, martial in the Dona nobis pacem and the listener is reminded that nearly two decades of continental war had but recently come to a close. The soloists have the final impassioned word, Beethoven ending his mass with an affecting plea for universal peace.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Kyrie
    2. Gloria
    3. Credo
    4. Sanctus
    5. Benedictus
    6. Agnus Dei

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 BIS BIS 2321
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290892037
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186565
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Glossa GCD 921124
    2017 Phi LPH 026
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797060
    2017 IDIS IDIS 6731
    2016 Sony Classical 88985313592
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796438
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875173752
    2015 BR Klassik 900130
    2015 Hänssler Classic 980530000000
    2014 LPO LPO 0077
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633628
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633629
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94630
    2013 Warner Classics 174884
    2013 SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) SDG 718
    2013 Querstand QUE 1237
    2013 Urania URN 22302
    2013 Urania WS 121196
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791044
    2012 ICA Classics / WDR ICAC 5054
    2012 LPO LPO 0061
    2012 Erato 2564663202
    2012 Naxos 8501062
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 Phi LPH 007
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779830
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94052
    2011 Warner Classics 63779
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4779111
    2010 Classics & Jazz / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Farao / Farao Classics 108053
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 501557
    2009 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Lyrichord 6013
    2008 Archipel 0402
    2008 Kultur 004400734391
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Col Legno 60011
    2008 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5675462
    2008 EMI Classics 11973
    2007 Cascade Records 2200
    2007 Testament 1408
    2007 IMS
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4776690
    2007 EMI Classics 3777672
    2007 EMI Classics 87739
    2006 Capriccio Records 67171
    2006 Rca Red Seal 76223
    2006 Universal
    2006 Warner Music 63779
    2006 Music & Arts 1188
    2006 Testament 2126
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2901557
    2005 Brilliant 92825
    2005 Arte Nova 870740
    2005 Artone 222374354
    2004 Guild Historical 2248/49
    2004 Naxos 8557060
    2004 Berlin Classics 0013122
    2004 BBC Legends 41502
    2004 Laserlight 40027
    2004 Music & Arts 1142
    2004 Document 203184
    2003 Archipel 89
    2003 MDG 3371128
    2003 SOMM 11
    2003 MDG 9371128
    2003 Music & Arts 4259
    2003 Delta Distribution 40031
    2002 Harmonia Mundi 2981557
    2002 BBC Music 4093
    2002 Arte Nova 87074
    2002 Testament 1283
    2002 IDIS 6365
    2001 RCA 66656
    2001 EMI Classics 69440
    2001 Haenssler 93006
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 67547
    2001 Capriccio Records 51036
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469 262-2GP2
    2000 Teldec 28144
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469 546-2GGA
    2000 Urania 135
    1999 Urania 124
    1999 BBC Legends / BBC Music 40162
    1999 Pearl 9282
    1999 Brilliant 99093
    1999 History 203190
    1998 Nimbus NI1760
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 66876
    1998 Haenssler 98956
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78846
    1998 RCA 55837
    1998 Angel Records / Seraphim UK 569537-2
    1998 Angel Records / Seraphim UK 95372
    1998 Harmonia Mundi HMX290 8021/6
    1998 Tahra 200/221
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453798
    1997 Decca
    1997 London 455014
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 449737
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453700
    1997 Point 265058
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447 922-2GBM2
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 4530162
    1996 Vox 5527
    1996 Grammofono 2000 78626
    1995 Berlin Classics 0091602
    1995 Orfeo 370942
    1995 Harmonia Mundi 901557
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445543
    1995 Decca
    1995 London 444337
    1995 Intercord Klassische Diskothek 860916
    1994 Sony Music Distribution 53517
    1994 BIS 406/407
    1994 RCA 60967
    1994 Erato 91731
    1993 Teldec 74884
    1993 Philips 438362
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 435770
    1992 Nimbus 5109
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 47522
    1990 Archiv Produktion 429779
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80150
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 423913
    1988 EMI Music Distribution 69246
    1988 EMI Classics 69538
    Deutsche Grammophon 435321
    Archiphon 21
    Delta Distribution 35605
    Melodram 28036
    Deutsche Grammophon 419166
    As Disc 11015
    Iron Needle 1418
    Magic Talent 48019
    EMI / EMI Music Distribution 79523
    As Disc 301
    Historical Performers 33
    Deutsche Grammophon 413780
    Omega Music Poland 1033
    Deutsche Grammophon 437925
    Calig 50993
    Laserlight 14830
    Laserlight 14136
    RCA 60272
    Music & Arts 259
    Brilliant Classics 93943
    Deutsche Grammophon 435329
    Arkadia 214
    Brilliant 99132
    Aurophon Records 31445
    Cascade Records 2281
    Amado Classics 03033
    Document 203186303
    EMI Music Distribution 5
    Historical Performers 25
    Pellarin Multimedia 37026
    History 2031941