Notes and Editorial Reviews
This superlative and dedicated performance puts to flight at a single blow the idea that Beecham was not to be taken seriously in Beethoven. In all ways, this is an electrifying reading to set beside those legendary recordings listed above in matching the Olympian heights inhabited by Beethoven’s singular vision. Above all it is the gloriously confident singing of the Leeds Festival Chorus of the day that catches the ear. It matches that of the roughly contemporaneous performance of the BBC Symphony Chorus for Toscanini. In those far-off days, members of predominantly amateur choruses apparently sang as though their lives depended on it: its members were clearly willing, in a world where there were fewer distractions on TV and elsewhere, to
give the time to sing with the conviction and unanimity evinced here. The sopranos sustain their taxing line with unflinching attack, and the tenors and basses produce floods of strong tone, no doubt inspired by Beecham’s exciting beat.
The conductor himself, then at the height of his appreciable powers, leads a vigorous yet always deeply thought-through reading that at once keeps each movement as a unified entity yet allows for every detail to be given its due at sensible tempos. He gives the timpani its head, acknowledging the importance Beethoven attached to its role. His own voice is heard once or twice exhorting his charges to even greater deeds, notably in the final presto of the whole work, when he seems to give a sudden shout of joy as the performance reaches its triumphant close.
The four soloists, all close colleagues in choral works at this period, form a cohesive group, their secure voices keeping their often complex lines clear. At the same time Heddle Nash’s plangent, beseeching, silvery tone stands out as he makes us realise how often the composer gave the tenor important leads. Each is sung by Nash with heart-warming passion. Mary Jarred, too little recorded, is the grave, firm contralto, Falkner the reliable bass. Baillie, as pure in tone as ever, sometimes lacks the passionate attack Beethoven predicates for his soprano.
The recording is never less than tolerable, although there are a few moments of distortion. At its best, it catches the flavour of what must have been an exhilarating and inspiriting occasion. Klemperer had, of course, another amateur chorus of superb quality in the recently formed Philharmonia, and a fine team of soloists so that his version, in its new remastering, and at mid-price, is a safer choice. But Beecham and his splendid team, also selling at mid-price, will be wanted by Beethoven enthusiasts and those interested in the work’s recorded history because this now becomes the earliest version of the Mass on disc.
-- Gramophone, 5/2001
Works on This Recording
Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Isobel Baillie (Soprano),
Heddle Nash (Tenor),
Mary Jarred (Alto),
Keith Falkner (Baritone),
H. Percy Richardson (Organ)
Sir Thomas Beecham
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Leeds Festival Chorus
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 10/05/1937
Venue: Live Town Hall, Leeds, England
Length: 78 Minutes 10 Secs.
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Kyrie
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Gloria: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Gloria: Qui tollis
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Gloria: Quoniam
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Credo: Credo in unum Deum
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Credo: Et incarnatus est
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Credo: Et resurrexit
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Sanctus: Sanctus
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Sanctus: Benedictus
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei
Mass in D Major, Op. 123, "Missa Solemnis": Agnus Dei: Dona nobis pacem
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