Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Missa Solemnis (1823)
Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Elína Garanča (mezzo), Michael Schade (tenor), Franz-Josef Selig (bass)
Sächischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann
rec. Semperoper, Dresden, 13-14 February 2010
Picture format: 16:9, 1080P. Sound: PCM Stereo and DTS-HD MA 5:1 surround.
Subtitles in Latin (original), English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
Region Code A/B/C.
UNITEL CLASSICA Blu-ray 705504 [90:00]

Simon Thompson has already made the DVD version of this performance Recording of the Month – see review – and I’m not about to disagree with him. He has taken the words out of my mouth in every respect, except that I’d like to put in a word for John Eliot Gardiner’s DG Archiv CD version, which I think complements this larger-scale Thielemann account superbly.

I shall return to this blu-ray recording, because I think that one does benefit in this case from seeing the ‘action’, which is not always the case with non-operatic recordings. I shall, however, certainly not be disposing of the Gardiner recording which combines non-dogmatic period practice with the ability to convey the greatness of the work (429 7792).

Whichever version you choose, on CD, DVD or blu-ray, make sure that you always have one recording of this marvellous music to hand. For all my admiration of the Masses of Haydn (especially) and Mozart, it’s the Beethoven Missa solemnis that ranks alongside the Bach b-minor Mass. If you don’t yet have the Bach, John Eliot Gardiner is your man there, too, either separately (DG Archiv, 2 CDs, 415 5412) or in one of Universal’s give-away Collectors’ boxes (DG Archiv 469 7692, with the two Passions and the Christmas Oratorio, 9 CDs for around £45).

To Simon Thompson’s review I merely add that the picture quality of the blu-ray equivalent is superb – better than you’re likely to get from the DVD, even if you have an up-scaling machine – and that the quality of the sound matches it, especially if played via something which does it better justice than most TV speakers. I actually have my more expensive Cambridge Audio 650BD blu-ray player linked to my audio system because it also makes a splendid job of playing SACDs, CDs and DVDs, and the less expensive Philips player linked to my TV. This new Unitel recording certainly came over well on both.

There is a price differential between the DVD and blu-ray, with the latter costing about 50% extra. I’m not always sure that it’s worth paying the difference, but, in this case, despite Simon Thompson’s praise for the quality of the DVD picture and sound, I think it is worthwhile.

Christian Thielemann has also recorded a series of DVDs and blu-rays entitled ‘Discovering Beethoven’ for Unitel’s associated label, C-major, which you may wish to check out:

Each symphony is accompanied by a one-hour documentary featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, Christian Thielemann and Joachim Kaiser, and includes excerpts from performances from what the C-major ad describes as ‘legendary performances by Karajan, Bernstein, Böhm and Järvi’. Our partner suppliers at MDT have all these Thielemann titles on special offer at the time of writing and until 27 June 2011.

Brian Wilsn

On DVD this is already Recording of the Month and the Blu-ray is worth paying extra.