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David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2020

Continuing Naxos’s release of Beethoven’s complete scores for chorus and orchestra, we have one of his best known works in this genre, the Mass in C major.

Commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy for the Princess Marie’s name day, the Mass was an annual assignment undertaken for many years by Haydn, and now given to the ‘young’ Beethoven. Completed in 1807 it followed the tradition of a celebratory Mass, but its premiere was not well received by the Prince, the eventual dedication being given to Prince Ferdinand Kinsky. Probably it was all too serious, the opening Kyrie conveying a plea for mercy, its mood devotional and symphonic in flavour. A failure at that point in time but now counted among choral masterpieces. It is scored for four soloists, large chorus and orchestra. In this performance, conducted by Leif Segerstam, it is a perfect mix of religious seriousness with a powerful Credo, and a joyous outpouring that precedes a ‘red-blooded’ Gloria, Segerstam reminding us that Beethoven had only recently completed his opera, Fidelio. The solo quartet of Kaisa Ranta, Niina Keitel, Topi Lehtipuu and Nicholas Soderlund, are an accomplished team with a major international presence in the opera house. For the chorus’s sopranos it is a real challenge, but here they really hit you with a powerhouse contribution, while Ranta soars above, even in the most densely scored passages. There are some highly regarded recordings, a number offering period credentials, but this fulsome performance is, by a large margin, my favourite. To complete the disc, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is for the most part, a simple setting of Goethe’s words commemorating the passing of a friend’s wife, while the fragment, Vesta’s Fire, was the beginning of a score the composer lost interest in. Very good orchestral playing throughout from the Turku Philharmonic and in vivid sound. A five star recommendation. © 2020 David’s Review Corner

Records International, April 2020

The 19 minutes of rare music here are about equally split between two numbers for an opera “Vesta’s Fire” by Emmanuel Schikaneder which Beethoven then abandoned, and an 1815 choral-orchestral setting of the Goethe poem which inspired Mendelssohn’s later overture. © 2020 Records International

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