Listening: A remarkable performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis featuring the remarkable Marlis Petersen

Conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt

This afternoon at the Barbican, lucky Londoners are going to be treated to an amazing performance of Beethoven’s magnificent Missa Solemnis by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chorus and soloists, led by Nicholas Harnoncourt.

I know this because it’s a repeat of a concert presented Thursday night at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam — and streaming for free right now on, a treasure chest of classical and opera performances, as well as documentaries, all available in high-definition video.

The pacing of Harnoncourt’s Amsterdam Missa is impeccable, the chorus fantastic, the orchestral work  as clear and transparent as a northern lake killed by acid rain. The way the concert is miked, one can also get a sense of its incredible acoustics.

The mass, written around the same time as the Ninth Symphony and first performed in St. Petersburg in 1824, it is phenomenally difficult to sing. It’s as if Beethoven wanted to torture every voice among both soloists and chorus. But, done well, the result is captivating.

The soloists for this concert are exceptional: German soprano Marlis Petersen, Austrian mezzo Elisabeth Kulman, German tenor Werner Gura and Canadian baritone Gerald Finley.

You can link to the concert here. (Signing up for streaming is easy and painless.)


On a side note, Marlis Petersen has a phenomenal new solo CD out on Harmonia Mundi (you can read my review here).

Here is the soprano as Ophelia in an aria from Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, from the met in 2010:

John Terauds


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