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OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

07 May 2005

Missa Solemnis in London

‘The day on which a High Mass composed by me will be performed during the ceremonies solemnised for your imperial highness will be the most glorious day of my life,” wrote Beethoven in 1819 to Archduke Rudolph, the youngest brother of the Holy Roman Emperor Franz I and his composition student. Rudolph had just been elected archbishop of Olmütz in Moravia, and Beethoven was to write a setting of the mass for the installation the following year. In the event, however, the Missa Solemnis would take Beethoven five years to write and would be one of the grandest and most complex works of his later years. It is also one of the hardest of all musical works to perform. When Harmonia Mundi produced a live recording of the piece, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, there were many who felt that this was the first time they had heard a performance that had the full measure of the work. This weekend he brings the same forces, the Collegium Vocale Gent and the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées to perform it in London.


Ludwig van Beethoven

Agony and ecstasy

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is notoriously difficult. Is Philippe Herreweghe crazy to try it?

By Stephen Everson [The Guardian, 6 May 05]

'The day on which a High Mass composed by me will be performed during the ceremonies solemnised for your imperial highness will be the most glorious day of my life," wrote Beethoven in 1819 to Archduke Rudolph, the youngest brother of the Holy Roman Emperor Franz I and his composition student. Rudolph had just been elected archbishop of Olmütz in Moravia, and Beethoven was to write a setting of the mass for the installation the following year. In the event, however, the Missa Solemnis would take Beethoven five years to write and would be one of the grandest and most complex works of his later years. It is also one of the hardest of all musical works to perform. When Harmonia Mundi produced a live recording of the piece, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe, there were many who felt that this was the first time they had heard a performance that had the full measure of the work. This weekend he brings the same forces, the Collegium Vocale Gent and the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées to perform it in London.

Click here for remainder of article.


Opium of the Mass

By Hilary Finch [Times Online, 6 May 05]

Philippe Herreweghe has revealed the original beauty of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

AN ABERRATION of genius, or the musical equivalent of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel? Until a decade or so ago, the jury was still out on Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. And then in February 1995 a live recording was made of a single performance given in Montreux by an orchestra barely five years old, conducted by a Belgian better known for his Bach. Overnight, it seemed, the Missa Solemnis had been reinstated as Beethoven's single most considerable achievement.

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