- Mass for soloists, chorus & orchestra in D major ("Missa Solemnis"), Op. 123
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This really was quite a fine recording of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis," one of the best in years and easily the best of the early music recordings. But then, the competition in the '90s wasn't too stiff -- an unbearable Solti and overweight Davis being about the best of a bad lot -- and the early music competition was pretty limp -- an almost adequate Gardiner and a not-even-competent Harnoncourt being the only ones worth mentioning. Still, Philippe Herreweghe's 1995 recording of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" is really quite fine. The Choeur de la Chapelle Royale et du Collegium Vocale sing with strength and stamina, but also with grace and beauty of tone. The Champs Elysees Orchestra plays with power and precision, but also with unity of ensemble and beauty of tone, a very rare quality in an early music orchestra. And Herreweghe himself is actually an apt interpreter of the work. Not only does he have a knack for bringing out better than the best in his performers, but he actually seems to believe in the spiritual and sublime essence of the work, a very, very rare quality in any conductor these days. The result is a performance which, while it doesn't rival the 1940 Toscanini, the 1965 Klemperer, or the 1974 Böhm, does express the overwhelming sense that the numinous is imminent. Harmonia Mundi's sound is rich and vibrant.
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