• John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir performed Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at Carnegie Hall on November 17, 2012.
    Hide caption
    John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir performed Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at Carnegie Hall on November 17, 2012.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • John Eliot Gardiner and his two ensembles, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) and The Monteverdi Choir, take the stage at Carnegie Hall.
    Hide caption
    John Eliot Gardiner and his two ensembles, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) and The Monteverdi Choir, take the stage at Carnegie Hall.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Beethoven inscribed the manuscript to this piece: "From the heart — may it in turn go to the heart!"
    Hide caption
    Beethoven inscribed the manuscript to this piece: "From the heart — may it in turn go to the heart!"
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • The evening's soloists were soprano Elisabeth Meister, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, Michael Spyres and bass Matthew Rose.
    Hide caption
    The evening's soloists were soprano Elisabeth Meister, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, Michael Spyres and bass Matthew Rose.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Soprano Elisabeth Meister, watching and listening intently.
    Hide caption
    Soprano Elisabeth Meister, watching and listening intently.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • The ORR's players use period instruments — which are much more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity than modern instruments. Despite the challenges, these master musicians gave a phenomenal performance on this dry, cold night in New York.
    Hide caption
    The ORR's players use period instruments — which are much more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity than modern instruments. Despite the challenges, these master musicians gave a phenomenal performance on this dry, cold night in New York.
    Melanie Burford for NPR
  • Gardiner's interpretation calls for trim forces compared to other conductors' much weightier numbers of choristers and instrumentalists.
    Hide caption
    Gardiner's interpretation calls for trim forces compared to other conductors' much weightier numbers of choristers and instrumentalists.
    Melanie Burford for NPR

1 of 7

View slideshow i

Classics in Concert

Carnegie Hall Live: Gardiner Leads Beethoven's Missa SolemnisWQXR-FM

Listen

Listen

Loading…

1:28:06
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/164957592/165491128" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
PERFORMERS:
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Monteverdi Choir
John Eliot Gardiner, artistic director and conductor
Elisabeth Meister, soprano
Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano
Michael Spyres, tenor
Matthew Rose, bass

In recent years, much of conductor John Eliot Gardiner's focus has been on what he perceives as the emotional universality of canonical Western classical music. It is a point driven home by the images he selected for his Bach cantata "pilgrimage" series that recently concluded on his own Soli Dei Gloria label. Each volume was graced with an arresting photo portrait of people from Africa, Central and South Asia by Steve McCurry — who also shot the iconic "Afghan Girl" picture for National Geographic.

In Gardiner's hands, one can feel the same sort of impetus towards catholicism here, framed within the outlines of Beethoven's actual Catholic Mass, the Missa Solemnis. It is a spiritual declaration that might perhaps supercede specific dogma or doctrine. As Beethoven inscribed on the score: "From the heart — may it in turn go to the heart!" That feeling was underscored when Gardiner's Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR) and Monteverdi Choir created their now-iconic version of this work in November 1989 — with more than half of the resulting recording culled from a session held on Nov. 9th, the same night the Berlin Wall was opened.

The Missa Solemnis is a outsized work, one that Beethoven constructed over four years. Almost 90 minutes long and scored for a large chorus and orchestra, it is an uncomfortable squeeze in either a church or a concert hall. But Gardiner and his lean, period performance oriented musicians lay bare the core of this massive piece, revealing it to be a searching meditation on mortality.

Beethoven originally intended the Missa Solemnis, which ends hauntingly with an anxiety-laden Agnus Dei roiled by the horns and drums of war, to be a partner piece for his emphatically resplendent Ninth Symphony — and for the two to be premiered together in a single concert. Ultimately, while that did not happen at the debut, the Ninth Symphony remains the unheard answer to the big questions of this Mass.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra with pianist Jan Lisiecki at Carnegie Hall in a program inspired by Vienna. Ebru Yildiz/for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ebru Yildiz/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The Philadelphia Orchestra Brings Vienna To Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin conjures the sound of old Vienna, once Europe's musical capital.

Listen Loading… 2:00:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/463087739/463191026" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tiny Desk Concert with Teddy Abrams Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Teddy Abrams

Hear a young conductor, composer and pianist play Beethoven and his own jazzy pieces.

Conductor Simon Rattle took his Berlin Philharmonic and symphonies by Beethoven to Carnegie Hall for a week-long residency. AJ Wilhelm/NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm/NPR

Classics in Concert

Beethoven Symphonies At Carnegie Hall Via Berlin

WQXR radio

From a week-long residency, hear the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven's Sixth and Eighth.

Listen Loading… 1:30:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/456635697/457085467" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Conductor Andris Nelsons led the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus Thursday in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky at Carnegie Hall in New York. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Classics in Concert

A Tale Of Two Sergeys: Boston Symphony Orchestra At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Andris Nelsons conducts Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances.

Listen Loading… 2:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/451116807/451174052" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic, with pianist Evgeny Kissin, at Carnegie Hall's gala opening concert, Oct. 7. AJ Wilhelm /for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm /for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The New York Philharmonic At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Pianist Evgeny Kissin brings Tchaikovsky, and a sense of history, to Carnegie's opening concert.

Listen Loading… 1:35:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/442287960/446705652" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Tiny Desk Concert with Anonymous 4 on March 4. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

The a cappella quartet, with banjo and fiddle, offers popular songs from the Civil War era.

Back To Top

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor