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For too long Beethoven’s Mass in C major lay in the shadow of the Missa solemnis. Its particular virtues are now more fully appreciated, and this glorious work, commissioned in 1807 by Prince Nicholas Esterházy, is frequently performed and has been recorded regularly. While Leif Segerstam paces the performance on this new recording with scrupulous care, he is too often let down by his choral forces, which sound lightweight and produce too raw a blend; worst of all, their intonation is often awry. And no one is helped by the recorded sound. The Credo, however, finds the Finnish forces in better form and they dig deep to produce some appropriate dramatic edge. The soloists are fit for purpose, no more, with mezzo-soprano Niina Keitel the most attractive. Only some characterful woodwind playing (excellent first clarinet) lifts this C major Mass from the ordinary. The Goethe setting Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage finds everyone on much better form, with a nicely veiled quality to the choral sound in the ‘Calm Sea’ section. And it is good to have the two fragments from Vestas Feuer (‘The Vestal Flame’), Emanuel Schikaneder’s opera with which he hoped to tempt Beethoven.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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