The ORR's recording of Beethoven's choral masterpiece was made the very week of November 1989 that the Berlin Wall came down, and as conductor John Eliot Gardiner later claimed, that seemed to heighten the spiritual experience of the performance. Featuring a choir of 36 and an orchestra of 60 period-instrument players, it's also a leaner, meaner version than was commonplace in the late '80s.
The assembled forces deliver a fresh and vital interpretation of this sometimes forbidding work, taking some of the accumulated-by-time thickness out of it. The solo quartet, appropriately lighter voiced, comprises Charlotte Margiono, mezzo Catherine Robbin, tenor William Kendall and baritone Alastair Miles.
When this recording finally hit store shelves in 1991, it bumped Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio from the number-one position on the classical charts – no easy feat – and it won several industry awards, including "Record of the Year," from Gramophone magazine.
Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123
John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Monteverdi Choir
Alastair Miles (Bass), Charlotte Margiono (Soprano), Catherine Robbin (Mezzo Soprano), William Kendall (Tenor)
Available at Arkivmusic.com
The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique will perform the Missa Solemnis at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 17, which WQXR will broadcast live.