Beethoven mass with blazing vision

17:00, May 01 2012
Missa Solemnis
SOLOISTS: Soloists: The Missa Solemnisconcert included singers, from left, Cameron Barclay, Bianca Andrew, Emma Fraser and Kieran Rayner.

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis Orpheus Choir, Vector Wellington Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei with Emma Fraser, Bianca Andrew, Cameron Barclay, Kieran Rayner.

Wellington Town Hall April 29

The only thing I can remember about a performance of Beethoven's mighty work I reviewed many years ago was writing, "I doubt I will ever hear a performance in New Zealand with an amateur choir that does justice to this work ..."

Well, this performance changed that view, for this performance was a tremendous occasion in which Beethoven's vision was brought forth with blazing intensity.

It was, quite simply, Marc Taddei's show. He directed with an absolute vision of just what this pantheistic view of the world, couched in the words of the Ordinary Mass, can actually mean. And in his hands we heard something closer in vision to Janacek's Glagolictic Mass than any more obviously religious work; even operatic in the manner of the Verdi Requiem. In Taddei's hands the view that the Missa Solemnis is really a choral symphony also made sense.

That is not to say that this was a technically perfect performance for there were many occasions in which the choir was stretched, with passage work blurred, tenors strained and sopranos edgy. But the singing had dynamism and verve which, at the end of the day, was the point, and the four young soloists placed in front of the choir were, as much as Beethoven's demands allow, outstanding.

The orchestra was superb, with the horn section – who have a great deal to do – outstanding, and the trumpets topped climaxes in searing fashion. The woodwind, too, were splendid and, apart from a lack of real bite and intensity at times, the strings were fine as well. The concert opened with a very intense performance of John Psathas' Luminous, but the Missa Solemnis should have stood alone – the two works don't have a great deal in common.

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