Conductor Philippe Herreweghe returns to the helm of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic for another set of Beethoven symphonies on the PentaTone label, this time the First and Third. Again presented as a multi-channel SACD hybrid disc, PentaTone's sound is clean and detailed without too much digital sterility. Unlike the album that included the Fifth Symphony and was fraught with many rhythmic peculiarities, Herreweghe's reading of the First and Third symphonies seems diligently respectful to every nuance of the score.
December 1791, the final Requiem. Tired by his many voyages around Europe ever since he had been rejected in Vienna, Mozart could not find the strength to honour his promise to compose a Requiem in record time for the person who had commissioned it… He was in fact to be struck down by illness during its composition and it was his pupil Süssmayr who finished the work according to his instructions. This version remains the most convincing, for the presence and grandeur of Mozart are present everywhere - in the baroque imagination and the classical style, in the universal unrest and the sheer terror of a man alone in the face of Death.
This really was quite a fine recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, one of the best in years and easily the best of the early music recordings. The Choeur de la Chapelle Royale et du Collegium Vocale sing with strength and stamina, but also with grace and beauty of tone. The Champs Elysees Orchestra plays with power and precision, but also with unity of ensemble and beauty of tone, a very rare quality in an early music orchestra. And Herreweghe himself is actually an apt interpreter of the work. Not only does he have a knack for bringing out better than the best in his performers, but he actually seems to believe in the spiritual and sublime essence of the work, a very, very rare quality in any conductor these days. The result is a performance which, while it doesn't rival the 1940 Toscanini, the 1965 Klemperer, or the 1974 Böhm, does express the overwhelming sense that the numinous is imminent. Harmonia Mundi's sound is rich and vibrant.- James Leonard
This recording is, quite frankly, a marvel. In the opening bars of the Kyrie, where tradition dictates a powerful, agonized cry for mercy, Philippe Herreweghe offers a gentle, awestruck plea that took this listener's breath away. Extroverted movements like the Gloria, Et resurrexit, and Sanctus lack nothing in excitement; Qui tollis and Dona nobis pacem feel like fervent prayers. Herreweghe's luminous Collegium Vocale and skillful, sensitive instrumentalists make every gesture, large and small, seem exactly right. The soloists have attractive voices that blend with the period instruments and each other; while each is exquisite, tenor Christoph Prégardien and alto Andreas Scholl are magnificent. Underlying the entire performance is a sense of contemplative wonder that suits this deeply religious music perfectly.-Matthew Westphal
This disc represents Volume 2 of a set of the complete Beethoven symphonies currently in progress (the first volume, on the Talent label, included Symphonies 4 and 7 and was reviewed by Colin Anderson in 29:2). In a clumsily translated note Herreweghe refers to “nature” trumpets and “Baroque kettle drums with modern tuning”; these would appear to be the only concessions to period practice—by all accounts, the Royal Flemish orchestra employs modern instruments. This series would appear, then, to be comparable to the latest set conducted by Roger Norrington, with the orchestra of the Stuttgart Radio, on Hänssler.
Philippe Herreweghe's 2011 recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in D major receives high marks, not only for the elegant period treatment, but also for the profound conviction of the performance. The Collegium Vocale Ghent and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées deliver the music with a somewhat smaller sound than one usually hears in modern performances; the Classical proportions of the ensembles allow details to stand out with utter clarity and the choral parts to move with greater fluidity and transparency than permitted with much larger choruses.