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Concert Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Los Angeles Master Chorale by Patrick Brown

Missa Solemnis

  • Raquel Gonzalez, soprano
  • Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano
  • Arnold Livingston Geis, tenor
  • Rod Gilfry, bass
Los Angeles Master Chorale
Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra
Grant Gerson, Artistic Director & Conductor
Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 22 January 2017 (7:00 p.m.)

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis ranks among the top five masterpieces in the orchestral and choral repertoire and is a specialty of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Beethoven composed it between 1819 and 1823 over a period of four years and premiered both his 9th Symphony and the Missa Solemnis in the same year. Now, completely deaf and in the final years of his life, Beethoven wrote atop the top of the first page of his manuscript – "Von Herzen – möge es wieder – zu Herzen gehen!” ("From the heart – may it go again – to the heart!”) As a witness to the attention and ultimate resounding standing ovation at the end of the performance by the audience in attendance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on this evening, Beethoven's inscription was duly noted and enthusiastically appreciated.

Conducted by its Artistic Director Grand Gershon, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Master Chorale Orchestra presented the thematic points, the emotion, the virtuosity, the beauty and the power of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in a blazingly, energized expression of faith. Their performance had one imagining the Walt Disney Concert Hall as a magnificent cathedral in which the pure voices of the Master Chorale rose from the sanctuary. With four talented soloists – soprano Raquel Gonzalez, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, tenor Arnold Livingston Geis, and bass Rod Gilfry – the 115 singers and full orchestra, provided a beautiful translation of the Mass' meaning into music. Singing with energy, vigor, boldness and serenity, each movement was exceptional and extraordinary in both tempo and character.

Each movement – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei – were grandly enunciated. The music and voices were splendid and lit with illuminated textures of chaos and peace, nourished by melodic phrases that united the voice during harmonic changes, and repeated high notes. The sublime and mysterious peace that closed the work elevated the miraculous meaning of the Missa Solemnis via powerful impressions that intensely and beautifully embraced both believers and non-believers alike.

The Missa Solemnis is an offering to God and a moving declaration of love for God. Something like peace enveloped the concert hall with the final plea of "pacem, pacem” and silence prevailed until the audience erupted into a resounding standing ovation for Beethoven's magnificent musical marvel.

Copyright © 2017, Paula Edelstein