One of the most grown-up review sites around

2020
54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


 
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

BUY NOW 

Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Mass in D major - Missa Solemnis Op.123
Eleanor Steber (soprano)
Nan Merriman (mezzo)
William Hain (tenor)
Lorenzo Alvary (baritone)
Westminster Choir
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Bruno Walter
Recorded live in Carnegie Hall, 18 April 1948
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1142 [78.06]



Historical Comparisons

Toscanini http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Dec03/Missa_Toscanini.htm
Beecham http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Aug02/Beecham_Beethoven.htm

The 1948 Walter Missa Solemnis has been out before, most recently on Urania, where the transfer was frankly very poor. Since this was a work Walter never recorded commercially and since there is now a relatively crowded field of off-air survivals from this period itís important that this document gets the best possible restoration. The 1940 Toscanini is now on Guild, a blazing performance much admired by me though in fairness not everyone shares my admiration. The even earlier live Beecham from the 1937 Leeds Festival has made its mark on Somm, the latter irrefutable evidence of the conductorís unlikely affinity with a score he performed a mere handful of times. Iíve reviewed them both on this site and both are historic front-runners. The Walter, in truth, isnít.

The first thing to say is that Music & Artsí unnamed restoration team has certainly made considerable sonic improvements and the latest restoration is in as good a sound as it can ever have received. But unavoidable problems remain and played at relatively high level one can hear the groove damage and acetate crackle as well as some evidence of distortion and rumble, as well as residual pitch problems that must have plagued the whole recording. Clearly there is only so far one can go with this restoration and no further. Nevertheless given that the aural limitations have at least been mitigated we can comment on certain aspects of the performance. Music & Artsí booklet writer does mention the Toscanini/1940 (much preferable to his RCA 1953 commercial set by the way) and characterises this Walter as quicker in every movement as well as "more moulded and spiritual." Actually by my reckoning Ė if we want to reckon such things at all Ė things are equal in the Kyrie with the Italian if anything fractionally speedier, and Toscanini is far faster in the Credo than Walter.

Whatís true is that Walter doesnít instil the same kind of discipline Ė individual and corporate Ė that Toscanini does. Some choral entries arenít well balanced and whilst this may well be a recording limitation that canít apply to the messy start to the Gloria and to the moments of raggedness chorally and instrumentally. The soloists are also variable. Steber starts stridently but settles down somewhat; Merriman is probably the pick of the quartet, Hain has a bleating tone and Alvary a hollow one. The latterís pitch is also uncertain though he does improve. Leader John Corigliano is, on this occasion at least, unable to match his predecessor Mischa Mischakoffís seraphic work for Toscanini or Paul Beardís sweet, portamento delicacy for Beecham. Walter is certainly profoundly engaged, his direction sure, the conception (in outline at least) full of the awe and rapture he had always felt for the work. But the details militate against him, and the imperfect execution limits true appreciation. In the end the sonic problems will limit pleasure Ė though limit is not the same as obliterate, as has been the case in previous transfers.

Jonathan Woolf


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews


all Bridge reviews


all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews

 

Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

April2022


Chopin Bruce Liu


Ingeneri Volume 2


Mondonville - Titon et L'Aurore


Telemann - French Cantatas 1

 

March 2022


Brahms Symphony 4
MacMillan Larghetto for Orchestra


Bruch Violin Concertos


Debussy Preludes Book 2


Jan-Peter de GRAAFF
Cello Concertos

La Nuit étoilé
Berlioz. Holmes

 


Return to Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.