Composed between 1819 and 1823, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis is one of the most beautiful, thrilling and atypical settings of the sacred repertoire – despite its much-debated religious status. Under Christian Thielemann’s leadership, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Rundfunkchor delivered a memorable performance.
During the ‘Kyrie’, Thielemann was able to achieve a perfect balance between soloists (Luba Orgonášová, replacing Genia Kühmeier, was outstanding), choir and orchestra. Despite his minimalist conducting technique – at times withdrawing completely and leaving the musicians ‘to do’ – he gave pertinent cues to truly bring the score to life. After a tempestuous start, the ‘Gloria’ featured moments of exquisite ensemble and Franz-Josef Selig particularly excelled. The chorus also made glorious contributions, Thielemann masterfully framing the score’s restless dynamic changes to their fullest potential, and the fast-paced coda was breathtaking.
The ‘Credo’ featured a heavenly “Et incarnates est” from the vocal soloists, adorned by flautist Emmanuel Pahud, which contrasted with a powerful “Et resurrexit”. Thielemann’s control of tempo-changes was immaculate and the choir was outstanding in the technically-challenging closing passages. During the ‘Sanctus’, Daniel Stabrawa’s violin joined for a heartfelt rendition of the “Benedictus”. The performance concluded with a very solid ‘Agnus dei’, which featured suitably solemn sonorities to contrast with the frantic and chaotic nature of the martial section.
- Live webcast on Saturday December 16 at 6 p.m. UK time