On Wednesday night, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, soloists, orchestra and conductor Noel Edison perform one of the monuments of early 19th century choral music, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The performance reminded me yet again of what a monster this piece is. Beethoven spent four years writing, finishing it in 1823 (he died in 1827).
The Missa Solemnis is infused with the same spirit as the Ninth Symphony and other late period Beethoven – a musical expression of faith locked in combat with doubt. Extremes of mood convey an almost desperate sense of Beethoven’s desire to connect to the world around him. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is perhaps the only group in the region that can marshal the forces for such a mammoth work.
Whatever it is that makes one of the most iconic pieces in the symphonic repertoire sound exciting, conductor Matthew Halls produced with the help of the Toronto Symphony, Mendelssohn Choir and soloists at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday night.
Matthew Halls conducts Beethoven’s Ninth for the first time in his career — and captures much of the excitement its first audience must have felt.