Karajan surmounted this pinnacle of the choral-symphonic repertoire - which Beethoven himself called "the greatest work I have composed" - no fewer than four times in the recording studio, but only once live and on film: in this unique document from the 1979 Salzburg Easter Festival. The atmosphere of Salzburg's Festspielhaus and festival audience adds a special frisson to this conductor's classic interpretation of the Missa solemnis.
With no slight intended to the other great recordings of the Missa Solemnis in the world, there's this one and then there are all the rest. Truly. Even with the 1940 Toscanini and the 1974 Böhm, this 1965 recording of Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus embodies everything that's great about the Missa Solemnis. And everything that's great about late Beethoven is in the Missa Solemnis: the energy, the nobility, the strength, the vision, and – above all – the overwhelming sense that the numinous is imminent. Beethoven thought it was his best work and who could not agree? That's what's in Klemperer's performance.
Longtime Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Eugene Ormandy developed what came to be known as the "Philadelphia Sound." (He groused that it should be called the "Ormandy Sound," even though its fundamentals had already been established during Leopold Stokowski's long tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra.) Largely as an effort to overcome the dry acoustics of the orchestra's home, the Academy of Music, Ormandy emphasized lush string sonorities and, often, legato phrasing and rounded tone. He was lauded even by his own musicians for his ability to conduct everything from memory, even complex contemporary scores. Still, aside from the voluptuous tone, Ormandy's interpretations rarely bore an individual stamp. They were, however, highly polished, intelligently balanced, and well paced, always serving the scores honorably, and often with a dash of controlled excitement.
The Collegium Vocale Gent and Orchestre des Champs-Elysées interpret Beethoven's Missa Solemnis for PHI. This major work of the sacred repertoire, high on the list alongside Bach's Mass in B minor and the Mozart Requiem, is Beethoven's longest work and assuredly the one that demanded the most work. The composer even considered the Mass his finest work.
Beethoven had little liking for organised religion, but he was deeply spiritual, believing in God as an all-powerful, loving Father. The awesome, sublime Missa Solemnis is one of his supreme achievements, which he headed ‘From the heart – may it in turn go to the heart!’ In this live concert recording, the fervour of Beethoven’s vision is powerfully realised by conductor Christoph Eschenbach with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.