Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, One From the Heart

Musicologist point out that the works of Beethoven's last period are a final reckoning in the aftermath of a time of crisis. Besides dealing with the question of supporting his nephew there was the reality of his increasing deafness. This meant he could neither competently conduct nor play the piano, in fact he was now a page turner at many of his own concerts; associates informed musicians to ignore his time keeping as he could hear neither the performance nor the applause.The lucrative days of the performer were now a thing of the past.He was getting older and he was suffering from diminished capacities of performance but greater competency of composition. These tensions reach a peak in the final phase that begins with the late sonatas and the Diabelli Variations,then comes the Missa Solemnis.

Beethoven had asked friends and associates to rummage through their great libraries for works of the choral past,especially the music of Palestrina. He had an opportunity and a great occasion in the elevation of his friend, pupil and patron Archduke Rudolph to archbishop of Olmutz.The work took much longer than Beethoven ever intended and like many compositions of this period grew to gigantic proportions, negotiations with multiple publishers were ongoing over the four years of composition. Beethoven was pressed for cash and seriously in debt,but did not allow this to alter his rigorous and time consuming compositional method.Finally,so anxious were friends and patrons to hear this new work that they sent him an open letter in the winter of 1823-24, literally begging him for a public performance of the new sacred work.By spring of 1824 it was completed bearing the inscription " From the heart- may it return to the heart."

Please tune in to this season's final broadcast of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera as we head into the Met opera season on Dec 3 with this special holiday feature of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with Leonard Bernstein conducting and the heaven storming soprano of Edda Moser.That's this Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI and Happy Holidays.

host, Ron Moore

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