A New Face for Beethoven
William H. DuBay | Costa Mesa, CA United States | 02/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Classical titles are so slow in coming to DVD! Thanks to Image Entertainment for bringing us this 1995 performance from Montreal. It is super! If you wonder why so many nominated Beethoven's Missa Solemnis as the best musical piece of the last millenium, get this DVD. I have worn mine out. From the first yearning, plaintive strains of the Kyrie to the frenzied coda of the Gloria, Beethoven expands the religious theme from communion with sweet Jesus to an embrace of an exploding universe. As a cheapo production, this DVD lacks sufficient notes. It gives the conductor's name, but not the principal performers. The quality of the video, sound, and performance, are, however, excellent. Being able to watch the performers adds new insight into the Beethoven's remarkable genius."
Very good performance, bad video
Robert Sherman | Gaithersburg MD | 03/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I thought the performance was considerably better than Kevin Filipski gives it credit for in the Amazon review. I found it to be sincere, competent, and frequently moving. The concertmistress seemed moved almost to tears in her long and beautiful solo. But what spoils this is the egotistical camera work, which generally manages to be where the action is not (e.g. a brain-dead long shot on the tenor's opening Kyrie) and the obtrusive and distracting lighting changes that are nothing short of criminal."
Solid performance of a difficult work
Gadgester | Mother Earth | 06/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Considered by Beethoven his most perfect work, Missa Solemnis is not your average classical music-listening experience. It puts strains on the performers -- including some of the most difficult passages for the singers as well as for some instruments, e.g., the bassoon/contrabassoon -- as well as on the listeners. But there's no doubt that it's beautiful and spiritual -- and take this from a non-believer!
I like this Montreal performance. The soloists do seem a little bored, but I think the two female soloists do a good job, and the chorus is quite good. The orchestra, under the energetic Auger (who often mouths the text as he conducts with enthusiasm), does a terrific job imbuing their playing with the necessary solemn quality, although visually, I have to say some of the players (e.g., the first violins, the contrabassoon guy) also seem a little bored.
The audio recorded on the DVD is PCM uncompressed, and the quality as reproduced on a typical home theater is quite good. The video production is so-so, your typical why-can't-they-focus-on-the-right-guys/gals classical music concert kind of visual experience. A few cross shots of a Christ-on-cross feel cheap, but at least the stage lighting effect is not too cheesy.
Overall, I like this performance because Auger seems to have put his heart into it, and the orchestra and chorus are competent and respond in kind. In comparison, I found Karajan's more famous recording a bit too cold, in line with that conductor's general style."
Bad production, beautiful interpretation
gpk | Forest Grove, OR, United States | 04/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Someone went to great lengths to sabotage this production. The frugal DVD package has Gilles Auger as the conductor of the Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal, no credit is given to the choir, the chorus master or the four soloists. No notes are included. (Another incarnation of the same DVD has been issued with Joseph Reseigno named as the conductor on its package. I did a bit of Internet research and was able to confirm that this attribution is wrong: the conductor is indeed Gilles Auger.) The camera work is passable, but the whole setting is badly marred by changing color filters in the lighting: the orchestra, choir and soloists are in turn bathed in funky blue, green or red hues to pretty awful effect. The unnamed concert venue (the beautiful 19th-century church of St. Jean-Baptiste in Montreal) does not need the gimmickry: this is Beethoven, not Scriabin! The soundtrack and mixing is not professionally done, at times whole sections of the orchestra are almost inaudible, and the listener has to fiddle constantly with the volume control.--This said, I still warmly recommend the DVD to Beethoven and Missa enthusiasts. Orchestral playing is first-rate throughout, the choir is near perfect in every respect and the anonymous soloists (with the exception of the bass who has to struggle for the right intonation a few times) are outstanding. Gilles Auger has a superb understanding of the score, both in its large architecture and in every detail. His sense for the work's inner dynamics is amazing, and I have rarely heard a more thrilling Gloria, a more cohesive, assertive Credo, a more moving Benedictus (the unnamed concert mistress plays exceptionally beautiful) and a more fervent plea for peace in the Agnus Dei. From the first to the last bar, this is a devout, moving and, all in all, a truly great performance. Get it while you can. It will stand on its own merits next to the unsurpassed Michael Gielen DVD (out of print), to Gilbert Levine's very fine interpretation and to Fabio Luisi's Dresden production (both 2005), the latter slightly handicapped by the Frauenkirche acoustics and the less than graceful playing and singing of the Dresdeners."