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The Missa Solemnis, originally intended for Archduke Rudolph’s enthronement but long delayed in the making, caused Beethoven as many pains as anything in his work. It is, in a real sense, a fulcrum piece, one in which the balance of spirituality and secular need, pure music and art devoted to worldly ends is most acutely sustained. The long Credo caused him agony, but it is the work’s keystone and its dynamic. There are few choral works with such mighty architecture, and few conductors with the vision to communicate it better than Gardiner, and in more than sketched form. His soloists are perfectly integrated, not too ‘operatic’, and choir and orchestra deliver a fearsomely good reading in this live performance from the Barbican in 2012. Not just a great record, but a great musical experience.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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