Classics in Concert

Carnegie Hall Live: Gardiner Leads Beethoven's Missa SolemnisWQXR radio

Carnegie Hall Live: Gardiner Leads Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

  • <iframe src="https://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

Penguin Cafe performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 2, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Penguin Cafe

Penguin Cafe folds in sounds from around the world and throughout music history — Africa, Kraftwerk, Brazil and Franz Schubert.

Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir revised her piece Aura especially for The Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. David Holechek hide caption

toggle caption David Holechek

All Songs TV

Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Volcanic Transmissions

As members of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet bow their vibraphones, brush their gongs and message their bass drums, the composer's evocative music oozes from blackness.

Ludovico Einaudi, performing live for KCRW. Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW hide caption

toggle caption Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW

Favorite Sessions

Ludovico Einaudi, 'Petricor' (Live)

KCRW

Watch the pianist and composer, joined by a full band, in a stunning live performance for KCRW.

Opera singer Joyce DiDonato created this video to go with her new album, In War and Peace: Harmony through Music. Warner Classics hide caption

toggle caption Warner Classics

Music

In Chaotic Times, A Singer's Plea For Freedom

Opera star Joyce DiDonato does more than sing — she lends her voice to social causes. Watch her new video, a haunting depiction of a woman trapped in conflict.

Gustavo Dudamel led the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra to open the new season of concerts at Carnegie Hall Thursday, Oct. 6. Chris Lee/Carnegie Hall hide caption

toggle caption Chris Lee/Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall Live

Gustavo Dudamel Opens Carnegie Hall Season With 'The Rite Of Spring'

WQXR radio

The charismatic conductor first heard Stravinsky's rambunctious music when he was just 8. Watch him lead the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela live on Thursday night.

A still from Maya Beiser's "Air" video. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

All Songs TV

First Watch: Maya Beiser, 'Air'

In a new video, the cellist plays with time and memory, turning back the clock to when she first heard J.S. Bach's music on a scratchy old LP. It remains, she says, a timeless lodestar for her art.

Yuja Wang played a demanding program at Carnegie Hall, topped by four encores. Ebru Yildiz/for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ebru Yildiz/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Hear one of today's most charismatic pianists perform music with deep psychological — and physical — dimensions by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms.

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

Audio is no longer available

Conductor Mariss Jansons led the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall Wednesday in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad." AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The 'Leningrad' Symphony At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Dmitri Shostakovich's powerful Seventh Symphony was written during the devastating World War II siege of Leningrad. Hear Mariss Jansons lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The 'Leningrad' Symphony At Carnegie Hall

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/474662768/475125195" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top