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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis / Heather Harper, Julia Hamari, William Steinberg

Album Summary

>Beethoven, Ludwig van : Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

William Steinberg (1899 - 1978), a native of Cologne who spent almost all his career in the USA, was known principally as Music Director of the Pittsburg Symphony and also as the distinguished Music Director of the Boston Symphony at the end of his career. He was celebrated as an orchestra builder, co-founding the Palestine Orchestra which became the Israel Philharmonic as well as helping one of his mentors, Arturo Toscanini, to form the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Steinberg's recording of Beethoven's Missa solemnis has never been issued before on CD and is in excellent stereo.

William Steinberg, whose abilities as a Beethoven conductor were highly appreciated by musicians if not always by the general public did not perform theMissa Solemnis as often as his mentors, Otto Klemperer and Arturo Toscanini. Annotator Donald Rosenberg, in fact, recalls that he only conducted it twice in Pittsburgh, once in 1954 as that orchestra's music director, again in 1975 as a guest. This Cologne performance and broadcast from 1973, then, fills a niche in the Steinberg discography (this is its first CD release). If Rosenberg's notes are any indication, this performance is held in almost as high esteem by musicians as his Beethoven symphonies...

...the wonderfully roomy sonics of the Cologne broadcasting studio imparts a warmth to Steinberg's Missa... This is especially welcome in the huge orchestral-choral climaxes that Beethoven calls for, even more massive and powerful than some of those in the Ninth Symphony...

I am also highly impressed with the vocal quartet, of which Heather Harper and Julia Hamari are the most famous names. Both women sing gloriously, and certainly live up to their reputations (I'm starting to think that Harper might have been the greatest all-around soprano of the 20th century - she could sing anything from Handel to Britten, with all stops in between), but tenor Sven Olof Eliasson is also very impressive, and Peter Meven has a rich, dark German bass voice that sounds almost like a junior Martti Talvela.

...I find Steinberg's approach to the Missa unique and very moving as a listening experience. I also think you may want this for its more sumptuous stereo sonics (quite impressive for a 1973 broadcast), Steinberg's very individual phrasing of certain passages, and one of the finest vocal quartets on any stereo version of this piece. I, for one, love this recording.

American Record Guide, July / August 2012
Steinberg's performance (along with Klemperer's) is one to make you think Levine was correct. Steinberg, then, is certainly recommended, though Klemperer's is a bit better: well balanced in the studio, tidier, and more spiritual in mood.

MusicWeb International, July 2012
Steinberg impresses by keeping a firm hand on the tiller. Almost without exception I thought his tempi were judiciously chosen...Beethoven makes the most unreasonable demands on the chorus, the sopranos especially, yet the German singers never flinch and I admired the tenors who produce strong, incisive singing yet never force the tone.

Gramophone Magazine, August 2012
In Steinberg's Gloria, the choir's accent on 'hominibus' is just right: quiet, not overdone...Steinberg hammers out 'consubstantialem Patri' in fine style...Peter Meven intones the the opening to the Agnus Dei with gravitas.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne (06/15/1973).


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Works Details

>Beethoven, Ludwig van : Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123
  • Performers: Sven Eliasson (Voice); Wolfram Gehring (Organ); Heather Harper (Soprano); Wolfgang Marschner (Violin); Peter Meven (Bass)
  • Conductor: William Steinberg
  • Ensemble: Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Running Time: 8 min. 8 sec.
  • Period Time: Classical
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1819-1823