Solemnis: Beyond the Basics of Beethoven
strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are recognisable to many, whether
from a concert hall or a cartoon. A
number of listeners are familiar with his most popular Sonatas, such as
“Moonlight” or “Pathetique”. However,
those who wish to move beyond the well-trod paths of the great
symphonies and sonatas should seek a deeper understanding of Beethoven
one of his most powerful works, his Missa Solemnis.
“A mighty work” is how
Kenneth Schermerhorn describes the piece.
Schermerhorn conducted the Nashville Symphony and Chorus on a
Naxos recording of the Missa Solemnis, and notes that the work
“mature Beethoven”. Indeed, every note
was scrutinised and revisited by Beethoven, who spent five years
refining the work. Originally conceived
to mark the 1819 appointment of Beethoven’s long-supporting
patron and music student, Archduke Rudolph, to the position of Archbishop
Cardinal of Olmütz, the work was not completed until
a full five years later in 1824.
Beethoven undertook the task of
writing his mass with gravity and dedication, preparing for the work by
studying proper liturgical form. The
resulting masterpiece, while retaining traditional movements of the
ordinary of the
mass (the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei), also contains
of emotion that is quintessential Beethoven.
Composed in the last decade of his life, it reflects the joy and
agony of the famous composer whose deafness separated him from the rest
world and from his own music.
However, the Missa
Solemnis was a work
Beethoven. According to Schermerhorn, “
. . .once he did complete it, he was so proud of it that he wanted it
performed all over the place,” at times campaigning for it to be
place of his well-loved Ninth Symphony.
important step in understanding the composer more fully.
This work deserves to be the next addition to your library.
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