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Whilst Beethoven's greatest purely Choral Work is the Missa Solemnis, we should not allow ourselves to think that the C Major Mass is just a poor relation: it is not. Written in 1807 on a request from Prince Esterhazy for normal liturgical use, it "bears the imprint of Catholic custom, but is nevertheless a direct approach by Beethoven to the words set" as Marion Scott in her celebrated book on Beethoven has so aptly said. Esterhazy was puzzled by it, probably because the rehearsals and indeed the first performance were well below expectations, and it had a rough ride thereafter, but this must not deter us from its quality. It is scored for a large orchestra, 4 soloists and full Chorus.
The opening Kyrie, which in this recording is quite magical with the soprano (Charlotte Margiono) seeming to float down from above with a beautiful and pleading melody, must make us want to listen and investigate further. The ensuing Gloria is, of necessity, more robust and powerful with many contrasting passages, is anchored to the C Major Key. This key is the point of arrival and departure, as is the case of the succeeding Credo. It is what happens between these points which is fascinating. The powerful and thrilling "Resurrexit", heralded by the excellent bass Alastair Miles, is a fine moment. The fugal passage which follows it is excitingly played and sung by soloists and Chorus. We arrive back to C Major in triumphant style.
Now the music proceeds to the Sanctus/Benedictus. We move to A Major, a bright key (the main key of the 7th Symphony), but the Benedictus is in the key of F Major, which Beethoven often used to portray blessed tranquility. Here all the soloists come into their own, individually and in inspired concert. Again the conclusion is bright and optimist. The "Agnus Dei" is, traditionally, of a darker hue and opens in C Minor, working towards the C Major conclusion However, the Masterstroke is the "Dona Nobis Pacem" where we get back to C Major, from whence we started, but which includes, at the very close, a moving repeat of the very opening of the Kyrie. Thus Beethoven unifies his work.
The Orchestration of this Mass is of a high quality and John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is at its best. Needless to say, the Monteverdi Choir excel as always. The soloists are likewise excellent and blend with the Chorus and Orchestra, never once intruding on the texture, but being a part of it. this is a splendid CD which has lots to offer, and lovers of Beethoven should purchase it. You will find a great deal; to savour and enjoy, and the added bonuses of "Ah! Perfido" and "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage" are additional delights.
Outstanding performance of Beethoven's first mass written for Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, who being used to frequently hearing Haydn's masses found this Beethoven work shocking. He is reputed to have said "My dear Beethoven, what have you done?". This comment was probably prompted by the operatic quality of this mass. Here we are almost in the style of Fidelio; the chorus is glorious and the soprano soloist, Charlotte Margiono is magnificient. This reading by Gardiner is filled with brilliance and theatrical drama, and rivals Gardiner's performance of Beethoven's more renowned work the Missa Solemnis. Highly recommended..
I bought this and the Missa Solemnis at the same time. Convention dictates that one must love the Missa Solemnis above all others. Well, I have come to the rebellious conclusion that I prefer this. Okay, they were written in two totally different periods in Beethoven's life so one should take that into consideration. However, regarding the two stripped of any context, the Mass in C is gorgeous and this recording is a thing of loveliness. The accompanying 'Ah Perfido' and 'Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage' act as transporting hors d'oeuvres.
Many will be familiar with Gardiner's Missa Solemnis but this reading of the Mass in C is equally as engrossing and comes with the added joy of Charlotte Margiono singing the concert aria 'Ah! Perfido' and the Monteverdi Choir singing 'Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage.'
With a fine quartet of soloists as well as Gardiner's reputable forces this CD is a gem and can be highly recommended. To have 3 of Beethoven's lesser known works on 1 disc is fantastic.
I went to Warwick university to hear this and fell in love with it a friend when I told her I had been to the concert wanted me to find a CD for her as she had sung in a concert some time ago she is 92 so it made a great Christmas present and I enjoyed basking in the magical sounds again.
I have the Arturo Toscanini collection of Beethoven's Symphony with him conducting the NBC symphony orchestra This is incredibly good collection The Mass is a good counterpoint to the symphony collection it opened a new understanding of Beethoven's music to me