Beethoven: Missa solemnis
The Missa solemnis was Beethoven’s reaction to his student Arch-Duke Rudolph, youngest brother to Emperor Franz I of Austria, being appointed Arch-Bishop of Olmütz in 1819. A spontaneous decision to write this music without a direct commission. He planned for the oevre to be completed on the occasion of Rudolph’s enthronement on March 19, 1820, but the work proved to be much more difficult for the composer than he had anticipated, and accordingly the premiere did not take place for another four years – on April 7, 1824 in a charity concert of the Philharmonic Society St. Petersburg.
It is not easy for the Missa solemnis today. This extraordinary work does not appear in the concert programmes as often as it still did some years ago. “The world of shareholder values doesn’t care for Christ”, as Michael Gielen says. He states that this is one of the reasons for the difficulties this work seems to cause audiences today.
Michael Gielen, who passed away in March 2019, can be heard in this historical recording from 1985 with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.