The Mass in C Major, opus 86, is the earliest of a number of works by Beethoven which are both vocal and symphonic. Written in 1807, just after "Fidelio" and several important instrumental and chamber music compositions, the Mass coincides with the period when Beethoven was working on the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies.
The first performance was on 13 September 1807 in Vienna, but it was afterwards seldom performed in concerts although Beethoven held the work in high regard. The credit for its real discovery is due to the later Romantics.
Like all compositions of the kind based on the Latin text of the Sunday Mass, strictly determined and consecrated by tradition, Beethoven's Mass is in five parts.
The Kyrie Eleison is distinguished by the spacious magnificence of its epic style. The alternation of the four soloists with the choir recalls certain features of antiphonal singing.
The Gloria In Excelsis pulsates with great impetus and brio; the various sections of the text dictate changes in the character, the tempo, and the dynamics of the music, resulting in a number of individual parts within the framework of the movement.
The Credo incarnates, in a certain sense, the vast amplitude and the splendour of the two preceding movements. It is the central and the largest movement of the entire work, for which reason its development is the most complex. It contains independent episodes which are different in character and mode of expression.
The Sanctus begins with a marvellously lyrical passage immediately followed by a more brilliant section.
The Benedictus, the text of which forms a separate section, re-introduces a more peaceful mood before the powerful and radiant finale.
The Agnus Dei is marked by its quality of inwardness and ends with the theme with which the work began, thus conferring a sense of unity on the whole.
The Mass in C has a clear and powerful structure. More than once there is a free use of elaborate polyphonic combinations evolving out of brilliant and massive chords. Beethoven thoroughly understood the expressiveness and the possibilities of the human voice he used extensively in his compositions. His interpretation of the text is profoundly philosophic and humanistic. Some of the features of this relatively early work prefigure the Missa Solemnis, the monumental contemporary of the Ninth Symphony.
The CD was released by harmonia mundi, CD 1988/P 1972, (AAD). HMA 190109.
Soprano: Emilija Markova
Alto: Lilijana Parachikova
Tenor: Christo Kamenev
Bass: Ivan Petrov
Choeurs Rodina, Orchestre Philharmonique d'Etat de Sofia, Conductor: Constantin Iliev
- Kyrie (4'50")
- Gloria (9'51")
- Credo (11'51")
- Sanctus (12'53")
- Agnus Dei (7'59")