> Beethoven - Missa Solemnis in D major Op.123 [JP]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1839)
Missa Solemnis in D major Op. 123 (1823)

Luba Orgonasova, (sop), Anna Larsson (alt), Rainer Trost (ten), Franz-Joseph Selig (bass) with the Schweizer Kammerchor and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra – David Zinman.
recorded 7 - 10 May, 2001 in Tonhalle, Zürich, Switzerland. DDD
ARTE NOVA 87074-2 [65.57]


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Here is another instalment in Arte Nova’s Beethoven series with David Zinman and his Zurich forces. The cycle of Beethoven symphonies were very well received in the press when they were released a few years ago, and this issue is in a similar vein to its predecessors. This has very good recording quality - analytical, so that every strand of the musical argument can be heard, and with very lively playing and singing from all involved.

I was initially relatively unimpressed by the opening Kyrie, due to its lightness of touch, but all became apparent with the opening of the Gloria, taken at a fair lick. With the fast speed, the lightness of the singing came into its own, and the whole performance took wing.

The choral singing is first rate with no strain showing throughout Beethoven’s cruel writing at opposite ends of the range for all voices. All credit to the choirmaster, Fritz Naf for his meticulous preparation of the choir, who acquit themselves with glory throughout. As I have mentioned before, David Zinman conducts his forces with a sureness of hand and the clear textures of the work come out most satisfyingly. You won’t find the Klemperer sound here, and this performance would not sound right with this type of approach. There is not much heavy religious atmosphere here, which might deter some listeners, who may be expecting the heavy, old fashioned phrasing an thick textures loved by the older school. This performance is very much one of the 21st Century and this is shown by the playing times. Many of the older recordings take between 75 and 85 minutes, whereas this newcomer takes only 66 minutes. This shows, and I did not feel that the work was unduly rushed, given the lightness of texture and first rate singing and playing.

So what about the soloists – Luba Orgonasova is superb, with her creamy tone ringing out over the general texture throughout the score. Anna Larsson, is not a singer that I have come across as yet. In the Missa Solemnis, she sings with a clear bright voice with a minimum of vibrato which I find a disfiguring feature of many other modern artists. Not exactly a Janet Baker or Christa Ludwig, but no less welcome for that.

The men are also first rate. Rainer Trost is a young German tenor, having worked in Hanover, Munich, Vienna, Dresden and Salzburg. He started in 1991, so has not been on the international circuit that long. His light lyrical tone suits the performance very well, and I enjoyed his performance very much.

Franz-Joseph Selig is another young German artist who was based initially in Cologne and then Essen. He has sung with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Salzburg Easter Festival, and so is not a stranger to working with front rank artists. Like his fellow soloists he sings clearly and accurately and doesn’t try to interpret his part, being content to sing Beethoven’s lines with accuracy and a most pleasant tone.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the presentation, with first class notes and biographical summaries of all of the artists involved, including the full names of the orchestra and chorus. Also, the organ part is quite clearly evident, a factor which added to my pleasure.

Finally, at budget price, there is absolutely no reason for you to put off buying this disc, even if you have another version in your collection – it will give you another view of Beethoven’s colossal work.

John Phillips

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