Considering that Missa Solemnis(from one of my personal favourite composers along with Tchaikovsky and Verdi) is alongside the St Matthew Passion, Mozart and Verdi Requiems one of the most awe-inspiring choral pieces ever written and that Herbert Von Karajan was one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century this performance had high expectations. Expectations that were met and more, this performance is monumentally good. The performance doesn't show its age too much(over 30 years ago this was), thanks to some very unobtrusive and intelligent videography and sound quality that doesn't undermine the drama of the music at all. Maybe the lighting wasn't as bright as it could have been, but this is more nit-picky than a hindrance. The orchestra play with great musicality and rich textures with an ability to be powerful(Gloria, Kyrie) and nuanced(Benedictus and Agnus Dei). The chorus are stirring with a strongly projected sound, with an ability to be weighty and ethereal, and good enunciation, especially good in the Gloria. Karajan conducts enigmatically- though his stage deportment is subtle(unlike Gergiev or Masur, who I consider gifted conductors still) and like he is lost completely in the music- and with a real sense of line and phrase. While Kempe and especially Furtwangler understand Beethoven's music more than any other conductor, Karajan's conducting of Beethoven is still very good especially in the Choral and Eroica symphonies. The four soloists don't disappoint either, Ruza Baldini is the least known of the four but she has a firm attractive tone and more than holds her own against her more famous colleagues. Anna Tomowa-Sintow's singing may be a little too "operatic" for some, but the richness and how she carries over the orchestra has such a thrilling effect, with some floating high notes too. Eric Tappy sings with a lot of eloquence and ring, and like everyone else shows great emotional commitment. Jose Van Dam has been more powerful-sounding and did come across as the weakest of the four with some underpowered lower notes(he's more a bass-baritone than a bass) but he still has a warm, sonorous tone, has a dignified presence and he really looks as though he's connecting with the material. In conclusion, as close to ideal a performance you can get of Beethoven's Miss Solemnis. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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