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Richard Lawrence
Gramophone, August 2012

William Steinberg is best known for his fine work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra but he is no less impressive with the radio orchestra of his home town. Right from the start you feel that all will be well. The soloists are rather forwardly placed, but that does highlight Heather Harper’s radiant soprano…

In Steinberg’s Gloria, the choir’s accent on ‘hominibus’ is just right: quiet, not overdone. The fugal ‘in gloria Dei’ is ben marcato, as Beethoven instructs, with an irresistibly over-the-top contribution from the horns.

The violin solo in the Benedictus is ravishingly played by Wolfgang Marschner… © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, July 2012

Steinberg impresses by keeping a firm hand on the tiller. Almost without exception I thought his tempi were judiciously chosen. There’s strength and energy in this reading of the Missa solemnis. One also has the feeling that Steinberg has an excellent conception of the architecture of the work.

His choir is good. Beethoven makes the most unreasonable demands on the chorus, the sopranos especially, yet the German singers never flinch and I admired the tenors who produce strong, incisive singing yet never force the tone, even in the most strenuous passages.

The solo team is a very good one. Anchoring it is Peter Meven (1929-2003), a firm and sonorous bass. He’s very impressive in the Agnus Dei, to which he brings suitable gravitas, and his work throughout is strong and reliable. I can’t recall previously hearing Sven Olof Eliasson (b. 1933) but the Swedish tenor is well suited to this role. He has a fine ring to his voice and his tone is consistently clear and true. With him ‘Et homo factus est’ is a splendid, confident proclamation and elsewhere in the work his contribution is similarly good. The ladies are better known. The Hungarian, Julia Hamari was thirty when this recording took place and so at an earlier stage in her career than her three colleagues; vocally, she was just entering her prime. Her voice is rich and full, though not in the least plummy—the sound is well focused—and she’s in fine form for Steinberg. However, the listener’s ear and attention is caught above all by Heather Harper. Her pristine voice, and especially the gleaming top register, is ideally suited to this work and hers is a commanding presence.

In fact, this is a recording about which not a lot need be said. The Missa solemnis is a peak—and a challenging peak—of the choral repertoire. Steinberg leads a fine reading, showing the value of having a wise, experienced conductor at the helm in such a demanding score. I admired and enjoyed the performance and I’m sure I shall return to it in the future. I hope ICA has access to more Steinberg material of this quality. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2012

There’s a feeling of expansiveness and grandeur as the magnificent sound of the recording and the superb singing of soloists and choir open out to the vastness of the starry canopy. Even in the fastest and most strenuous passages…the choristers, unfazed, are borne aloft on eagles’ wings. The soloists…are magnificent. The Cologne orchestra, too, is splendid, and concertmaster Wolfgang Marschner gives a meltingly beautiful account of the violin solo in the Benedictus.

I keep coming back, though, to the recorded sound, which has the most amazing clarity and transparency, not to mention dynamic range. This is a grand, noble, and exalted Missa Solemnis that, in my opinion, equals if not surpasses any number of other critically acclaimed versions. Up until now, it has to have been one of the best-kept recorded secrets of the 20th century. Why the Cologne Radio kept it under wraps this long is a mystery, but it’s a mystery now unveiled. Do not hesitate to acquire this release. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Paul L Althouse
American Record Guide, July 2012

[Steinberg] was much admired in composers like Beethoven and Brahms, where his style was direct and straightforward without losing expressive shape. This is a wonderful performance all around. It feels gently urged along and does not pause to meditate. The real star…is Steinberg, who keeps tension through the entire piece and never allows our interest to flag. Steinberg, then, is certainly recommended… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, May 2012

William Steinberg, whose abilities as a Beethoven conductor were highly appreciated by musicians if not always by the general public…this performance is held in almost as high esteem by musicians as his Beethoven symphonies.

…because Steinberg believed in a long line and did not hammer the rhythms…the actual listening experience is smoother, less angular in the articulation of the string and wind passages.

Moreover, the wonderfully roomy sonics of the Cologne broadcasting studio imparts a warmth to Steinberg’s Missa…Steinberg’s slightly more relaxed tempos in the Gloria and Credo also have the advantage of allowing him to articulate the fugal passages with…clarity…

I am also highly impressed with the vocal quartet, of which Heather Harper and Julia Hamari are the most famous names. Both women sing gloriously, and certainly live up to their reputations…but tenor Sven Olof Eliasson is also very impressive, and Peter Meven has a rich, dark German bass voice that sounds almost like a junior Martti Talvela.

…I find Steinberg’s approach to the Missa unique and very moving as a listening experience. I also think you may want this for its more sumptuous stereo sonics…Steinberg’s very individual phrasing of certain passages, and one of the finest vocal quartets on any stereo version of this piece. I, for one, love this recording. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

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