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DVD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Missa Solemnis

  • Camilla Nylund, soprano
  • Birgit Remmert, contralto
  • Christian Elsner, tenor
  • Rene Pape, bass
Dresden State Opera Chorus
Dresden State Orchestra/Fabio Luisi
Recorded live on November 4 & 5, 2005
EuroArts DVD 2054688 LPCM Stereo Dolby Digital DTS Anamorphic Widescreen
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The concerts from which this DVD was drawn were held to celebrate the reopening of the Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a Lutheran, not Catholic, Cathedral, despite the name. This historic building was bombed into ruins during World War II, but was rebuilt over thirty years, beginning in 1974. The choice of repertory here is fitting, even though it is a Catholic, not Lutheran, Mass setting. Fitting indeed – yet, present at the concert is not a celebratory sense, but rather a respectful, almost hallowed one. The audience's response at the end of the concert was not particularly enthusiastic: I wondered why they waited so long after the last notes sounded to begin clapping, and why their applause started off so tentatively.

Certainly their relatively tepid reaction couldn't have been the result of a mediocre performance, for it was thoroughly splendid. The singers, especially Camilla Nylund and René Pape, are excellent, not that Birgit Remmert and Christian Elsner are noticeably less compelling, for they too are outstanding. The quartet negotiates the notorious difficulties with relatively little strain, and the chorus does well with them, too, and in the more conventionally challenging passages, as well. Fabio Luisi leads the proceedings with a sense for capturing the music's ecstatic joy, its profound spirit and bounteous hope. This is surely one of Beethoven's deepest and most rewarding creations, though listeners not familiar with it may take some time to warm up to it.

The only problem with the production – and it's a minor one – is the acoustical character of the Frauenkirche. To my ears the chorus often sounds a tad hazy, and the sound in general is not as crisp and open as it might be. That said, it is still quite fine and fully adequate. The camera work is excellent and imaginative, giving you a good view of the soloists, chorus, conductor and orchestra at appropriate moments, as well as conveying the beauty of the rebuilt cathedral and the sense of splendor imparted by the proceedings. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2006, Robert Cummings