Missa Solemnis at Chicago

CSO, Rilling make a statement with Beethoven’s `Missa Solemnis’
By John von Rhein
Tribune music critic
January 22, 2005
Two of Beethoven’s most difficult yet most inspiring masterpieces, “Fidelio” and “Missa Solemnis,” are making Chicago the epicenter of a grand Beethoven festival.
Each work is a heroic undertaking that tests the performers’ mettle to the utmost. And yet, with soprano Karita Mattila leading Beethoven’s only opera to triumph at Lyric Opera, and, the Chicago Symphony and Chorus delivering a strong and stirring performance of the “Missa Solemnis” this weekend at Orchestra Hall, one comes away exalted, grateful to have heard these pieces performed at the highest level.
Good fortune enabled the CSO to engage Helmuth Rilling on short notice to fill in for Daniel Barenboim while the music director took a week off to allow his injured back to heal.
The German conductor is best known as a Baroque choral specialist but, as he proved with the “Missa Solemnis,” he is an authority on the big choral repertory of many periods. With the splendid vocal, choral and orchestral forces at his disposal, he distilled Beethoven’s monumental paean to God’s majesty into the basic human need for hope in the face of death. For his efforts Thursday night, the audience rewarded him with a prolonged ovation.
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