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Recordings

Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123
19 Jul 2006

BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis

This excellent performance of Beethoven's mammoth sacred work, Missa Solemnis, served as part of the celebration of the reopening (after reconstruction) of the Dresden Frauenkirche, which suffered devastating damage in the same bombing raid that destroyed much of the city and so many of its inhabitants near the end of WWII.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123

Camilla Nylund, soprano, Birgit Remmert, alto, Christian Elsner, tenor, René Pape, bass, Staatsopernchor Dresden, Staatskapelle Dresden, Fabio Luisi (cond.)

Recorded live at the Frauenkirche, Dresden, 4–5 November 2005

EuroArts 2054688 [DVD]

$28.98  Click to buy

The DVD offers a bonus feature, admirable in its restraint and brevity, detailing this story. Viewing it before the performance would be a good strategy, as the camera work in the DVD spends so much time gliding along the walls and sliding off the musicians in order to focus on some aspect of the interior. If one does not appreciate the occasion, this might irritate many viewers (and some may not find the occasion sufficient rationale either). Camera technology has developed so that the constant movement and birds-eye view angles can become a distraction.

The hall does have much to enjoy, visually. With its ornate friezes and blocks of pastel blues and pinks, the impression is as if a very traditional wedding cake had been inverted and we are inside it. The recorded sound, remarkably clear and not at all rattled by loud crescendos, suggests that the church will make a fine venue for more musical performances.

Fabio Luisi leads this one, looking quite aware of the profundity of the occasion, even tense, yet managing a fervent, detailed job of leading the Dresden Staatskapelle. The four soloists stand before the chorus and behind the orchestra. Contralto Birgit Remmert lacks a distinctive tone but never offers less than a competent performance. Tenor Christian Elsner also has somewhat of an anonymous tenor sound, and when the tessitura climbs, some strain becomes noticeable.

A gorgeous woman, Camilla Nylund also impresses with her ability to sustain the challenging soprano line without letting the effort mar her rich tone. Surely the most well-known of the four singers, bass René Pape shows why he has made a world-wide reputation for himself. He sounds beautiful, relaxed and yet urgent as necessary.

The long credits play over several minutes of ovations for the musicians from the audience, who made hardly any sound during the performance, based on the DVD's audio. So for those who want to watch the effort that goes into making Beethoven's massive mass come to life, while enjoying the architecture of the new Frauenkirche, this Euroarts set can be highly recommended.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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