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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis [Thielemann] Blu-ray Review


  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • List Price: $45.98

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Christian Thielemann/Staatskapelle Dresden: Beethoven - Missa Solemnis -

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Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:5/5]

Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass) makes its Blu-ray debut in this February 2010 performance by the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra directed by its newly appointed principal conductor, Christian Thielemann.  The soloists are a particularly strong and well-matched ensemble: Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Elina Garanča (mezzo-soprano), Michael Schade (tenor) and Franz-Josef  Selig (bass).  The singers are well backed by the superb Sachsischer Staatopernchor Dresden.  The Missa, cast in 6 sections,  Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, was composed by Beethoven between 1819 and 1823. It premiered in 1824 along with the monumental  Symphony No. 9 (“Choral) .  While drawing from the tradition of religious choral music, the Missa Solemnis represents a marked departure in terms of style and the ensemble use of the soloists as is also the case with the Ninth Symphony. This is a very dramatic work with substantial contrasts within and between its sections.  Highlights include a mighty vocal fugue that ends the Gloria and the achingly beautiful violin solo on the Benedictus.  As a complete performance, Maestro Thielemann , his vocal quartet,  and Dresden forces get it absolutely right.  The pacing is nigh unto perfect and the control over the tricky wide ranging dynamics is outstanding.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Dresden Semperoper hall is a simply gorgeous performance venue. It is hard to believe that it was twice destroyed, by fire in 1869, and by Allied fire-bombing in 1945, and finally restored completely  in 1985. According to the credits, this video is in 1080p format which may explain the sharp detail in the singer’s close up shots. Director Michael Beyer who also collaborated with Thielemann and the Wiener Philharmoniker on the Beethoven symphony cycle has a tendency toward very frequent cutaways and close-up shots.  I could have used a little less camera action with longer sustained shots a la the style of veteran video director Brian Large. As a side note, the audience included former Soviet premier, Mikhael Gorbachev who received the Dresden prize for conflict prevention.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Judging from the sound recording in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format, The Semperoper is a lively hall with some of its intrinsic echo generated in the surround channels.  The massed voices are warm and reasonably clear. The soloists are captured perfectly by the sound engineers, which considering how good they are individually and  together, is quite fortunate. The orchestral proscenium is effectively conveyed and the dynamics which are quite wide are given their due. The only nitpicking here, and it is not major, is that the bass lacks some articulation.  As this is a memorial concert, the Missa Solemnis ends in absolute silence which, in and of itself,  is completely  awe-inspiring considering what we have just witnessed.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

No extras! What a disappointment since there was an opportunity to share the history of this annual concert. It has been held since 1951, features different requiems, and memorializes the thousands of Dresdeners who died in fire-bombing of the city during World War II.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:5/5]

While there are several competing DVDs led by the likes of Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, and Fabio Luisi (conducting the same orchestra), this Blu-ray stands at the top of the heap. The performance values are superb, there is no weak link in the forces, and both sound recording and videography with minor exceptions are excellent. Thielemann, conducting without baton, has this music in his veins and creates a well-paced performance that is not simply beautiful to hear and behold, but which will move viewers profoundly. You get the feeling that Beethoven had premonitions of his own mortality, 3 years later, and wanted to approach heaven through his compositions. If that were actually the case, he got it so right with this work.  Even if you are not a choral music fan, this is one that you must see and hear.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004KDO2QQ[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Christian Thielemann/Staatskapelle Dresden: Beethoven - Missa Solemnis -

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com


Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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