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Friday, August 5, 2016
Beethoven, Missa Solemnis, Harnoncourt, Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Concentus Musicus Wien
Nikolaus Harnoncourt didn't come to mind as one of the potentially great "Solemnis" conductors in the past. But somehow he overshadowed most everybody else in July 2015 in a live performance at the Styriarte Festival in Graz. With him were a distinguished cast of soloists, the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and Concentus Musicus Wien. Luckily it was well recorded, and we now have it out on CD (SONY Classical 88985313592). It was to be Harnoncourt's very last recording.
Every phrase seems hand-sculpted, designed sonically to express Beethoven's intent. The choir rings out ecstatically, the soloists are dedicated, the orchestra neither fades away nor is overly dominant.
It is a live recording, so that one might imagine a second take on some passages, not many though.
It is a wonderful tribute to one of the prime musical masters of our times. It is neither bloated nor overly lean in sound. It is a moving farewell to the Maestro, and it may make a Missa Solemnis convert out of you. I think it managed to confirm that for me!