"When I was very young (maybe 9) and just started collecting classical recordings, I went to my local shop and bought my first CD, Klemperer conducting Beethoven's Ninth. I didn't know much about classical music at that time, but of course I knew Beethoven's Ninth, and I had heard of Klemperer. I didn't know my labels, orchestras, or soloists, so it turns out that I got a cheap Allegro CD with him conducting the Vienna Symphony (I didn't know there was a difference in quality with the Vienna Philharmonic!), and, as I remember, poor soloists and chorus. It was so awfully played and recorded, that I was turned off from Klemperer in a serious way, until I decided to give him another chance and listen to this. I cannot put into words just how impressed I was. The cumulative impact of his Missa Solemnis is just awesome. For once, we actually have someone who pays attention to ALL of Beethoven's markings in this extremely difficult piece and plays it as it is written, while at the same time breathing life into it. I have a hard time singling out what part of the Mass he does best; I was going to say listen to his awesomely powerful Credo, but then I thought, what about the superb Agnus Dei, or the inspiring Gloria? My recommendation is that, once you have gotten this CD, as I hope you will, listen to the whole thing from beginning to end, and then you will know what I am talking about. What makes me even more impressed with Klemperer here is realizing that the person responsible for this reading was a partially paralized 80 year old (80 isn't all that old now, but in 1965, it was long over the life expectancy). Before I bought this, I had Karajan's reading released at about the same time. I liked it, it had an ideal quartet, and the spiritual moments, like the Benedictus, descended from the heavens, but the sense of conflict, so much a part of the Missa, was almost entirely absent. As Richard Osborne acutely observed in the liner notes, Klemperer's vision was like a windswept, rocky outcrop, compared to Karajan's rolling, green landscape. Of course, it is up to you which you prefer, but in my opinion, Klemperer's vision is much closer to Beethoven's.
Aside from the brilliant interpretation, the orchestra and chorus are simply phenomenal, the soloists did a fine job, and the recorded sound, as is to be expected from a mid-60's EMI recording, is very good. In short, if you are looking for your first Missa Solemnis, if you are looking for Klemperer at his best, or even if you just like first-rate music making, get this."
Klemperer's Missa Solemnis
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 04/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I decided to return to Klemperer's recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, opus 123, after listening to an excellent recent recording by Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra on Naxos. I wanted hear a historic recording of Beethoven's masterpiece to complement the performance by Schermerhorn.This recording by Otto Klemperer (1885 - 1973)and the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus dates from 1965. The soloists are Elisabeth Soderstrom, soprano, Marga Hoffgen, contralto, Waldmemar Kmentt, tenor, and Martti Talvela, bass. The recording was instantly accepted as a classic, and it remains so today.Beethoven composed the Missa Solemnis near the end of his life, and the work represents, as many critics have noted, Beethoven's attempt "to come to terms with God". (Lewis Lockwood, "Beethoven: the Music and the Life, p. 405) Although born a Catholic, Beethoven was not a regular churchgoer. As he became older, Beethoven became increasingly preoccupied with spiritual concerns. He was familiar with and drawn to the work of liberal theologians of his day who stressed the personal, inner, and seeking character of religious life over adherence to dogma and ritual. (Lockwood, p. 403)The highly personal character of Beethoven's religious search, as expressed in his Missa Solemnis, might make the work particularly appealing to listeners today who are skeptical of particular creeds and of organized religious institutions. Otto Klemperer was himself a lifelong seeker in terms of religion. Born a Jew, he converted to Roman Catholicism only to return again to Judaism late in his life. The difficulties of the Missa Solemnis -- in terms of the wide disparity of style and tone among its movements, its use of archaic modalities and musical forms, its contrasts of lyricism and fury, might be explained by remembering the personal character of the work and its place in Beethoven's own religious search.Klemperer's recording of the Missa Solemnis is epic in character and possessed of a craggy grandeur. He captures the religious, highly idiosyncratic character of Beethoven's score and wields the work into a unity. The chorus and the soloists sing with passionate intensity.The Missa Solemnis is in five movements. It begins with a solemn orchestral introduction to the opening solem Kyrie. The middle movements, the Gloria and the Credo, feature passionate and fiery opening sections and lengthy fugues for their conclusions. The fourth movement, a Sanctus, has lovely, florid passages for solo violin which accompany in turn the soloists and the chorus. The final movement, Agnus Dei, involves a musical contrast between a march and warlike theme in the orchestra and moments of transcendent peace at the conclusion. Beethoven marked this final movement as a "Prayer for Inner and Outer Peace." (Bitte um innern und aussern Frieden.) Many listeners and critics have difficulty with the Missa Solemnis. It has been described as "Beethoven's least approachable work." (William Drabkin, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, p. 1) As I noted, the difficulties are largely due to the wide variety of musical styles that Beethoven utilized in this composition and to the difficulty of integrating these difficult, diverse styles into a coherent whole. Klemperer's reading on this disc brings out the character of each movement of this other-worldy music. In his biography of Beethoven mentioned above, Lewis Lockwood wrote (p.411) that the Missa Solemnis was Beethoven's "largest contribution to the expression of the spiritual, in the various senses of the term, [and] is also a symbolic representation of humanity's search for peace that can only be discovered through religious feeling, collectively and personally." Both Klemperer's classic recording and Schermerhorn's recent recording will help the listener approach this work. The Missa Solemnis is a music for many times and places. Each new version will carry something of Beethoven's message to the receptive listener."
Just buy it.
Good Stuff | 02/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you thought you hated Klemperer, buy this recording.
If you thought you hated the Missa Solemnis, buy this recording.
If you thought you hated Beethoven, buy this recording.
If you thought you hated music, buth this recording.You'll change your mind."
Stephen Shotwell | Belmont CA | 02/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My favorite recording of my favorite work of my favorite composer.
Among the many strengths of this performance, I would particularly like to mention how dead-on right are the tempi. Klemperer does not lean toward the ponderous here as he does in his symphony recordings.
There is, however, one notable exception: "In gloria dei patris", the fugal close to the Gloria, really is too slow. Taken at a weighty plod, well under the Allegro ma non troppo marked, this section lacks the cumulative energy and "glory" that it should have.
But let's keep things in perspective. This is the exception in a performance that is otherwise exemplary for its tempo choices. And this work, with more tempo variations than I would care to count, so often suffers abuse from the ill-chosen tempi of other conductors.
The sound quality is fine. The performing forces are excellent. Though, for me, Marga Hoffgen is less than the ideal of vocal beauty or expression. But then, Elisabeth Soderstrom is splendid!
I used to find the Kyrie, while at a perfect tempo, too grandiose dynamically. But now I am not so sure. There is a trade-off here: what the movement loses in humility it gains in grandeur.
But enough indulging in personal views. What I really must emphasize is that this is a beautifully conceived performance. Klemperer grasps the larger structures of this great work, while, by comparison, others are lost, mired in the smaller episodes.
This is THE recording."
adam,lorenzetti | Rome,Italy | 04/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I lterally love this masterpiece,I studied every single detail and I tried to listen to every performance ever,but Klemperer led me directly to another world,it was like listening to a brand new masterpiece.His extremely slow tempos give you the possibility to enjoy every detail of the score,the singers are the best you can possibly think of and along with the exceptional orchestra the listener has to be prepared for very strong emotions.I'm 36and very rarely did I listen to something even close to this Missa Solemnis.You may probably think I'm overeacting,but wait untill you here it and then you'll know what I'm talking about.I'm really looking forward to knowing your personal comments!!!!!!!!Adam Lorenzetti."