Beethoven: Mass in C major. © 2019, 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

A Celebratory Mood

GERALD FENECH is impressed with
a new recording of Beethoven's Mass in C

'Leif Segerstam leads a first-class group of soloists and brings out all the humanity and tenderness of the music with aplomb.'


During the 1790s it had become the custom at Eisenstadt to celebrate the name-day of Princess Esterhazy with a newly composed Mass, an undertaking taken up by Haydn during his last years in Vienna. But by 1807 the great master was in poor health and the task was assigned to Beethoven. This new Mass was to be performed on the Sunday nearest to the Princess' name-day on 8 September, but sadly, this new commission came at a time that was far from a happy one for the composer, and just like the Missa Solemnis of 1823, Beethoven was not able to finish the work in time.

Deafness had severely limited his career as a performer, so he had to rely on composition to earn a living. Apart from this tragic development, Beethoven had also to contend with his brother's mishaps from whom he had borrowed money that had to be repaid through Beethoven's negotiations with his publishers. Somehow, the Mass was eventually performed at Eisenstadt, but the work was given a cool reception and this irked the composer no end. Indeed, he finally decided to dedicate the Mass in C to Prince Ferdinand Kinsky.

Listen — Beethoven: Gloria (Mass in C)
(track 2, 0:00-0:55) © 2019, 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The piece is permeated with a celebratory mood that befits a royal occasion and, although meditative moments do appear where they should, this Mass is one of Beethoven's most brilliant choral pieces, if you do not include the gigantic Missa Solemnis, that is. Sadly, the Mass' recorded history is unspectacular to say the least, so this fine new recording should inject renewed interest in the work.

Listen — Beethoven: Sanctus (Mass in C)
(track 4, 1:57-2:52) © 2019, 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

This issue also includes the Cantata Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two of Goethe's poems, that reflected the feelings of the poet during a voyage to Italy, dangerously becalmed off Capri. This piece contrasts calm with exuberance and was composed in 1815.

Listen — Beethoven: Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt
(track 7, 0:00-0:49) © 2019, 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The programme is concluded with a delightful fragment from Vesta's Fire (1803), an aborted operatic project to a text by Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of Mozart's Magic Flute.

Listen — Beethoven: Vestas Feuer
(track 6, 9:54-10:54) © 2019, 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Leif Segerstam leads a first-class group of soloists and brings out all the humanity and tenderness of the music with aplomb. The impressive feeling of drama and immediacy is tempered with vision and assuredness. A splendid disc on the Beethoven Anniversary Year which should be investigated with serious intent.

Copyright © 5 May 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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