Toscanini Conducts Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in D Major
Beethoven was on a roll. He'd been through a fallow patch in which he hadn't composed much, but that was behind him now. His creative juices were flowing as never before, resulting in a number of large-scale works: the Diabelli Variations, Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, the Late String Quartets, and these two grand pieces: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (aka, "the Choral symphony"), and the Missa Solemnis in D Major (Solemn Mass). Beethoven wasn't merely producing great art, he was–in football parlance-- spiking the ball.
Much has been written about the Choral Symphony and the Missa, and much has been written about Arturo Toscanini's account of these two great works, which are now joined together on one CD (BMG Classics #525731Z). Suffice it to say, the versions on this CD are the ones which the Maestro gave his blessing. These are the recorded accounts that the perfectionist inside Toscanini was (as he put it) "almost satisfied". It was these performances that came closest to matching his vision of how this music should be played. Mind you, he had conducted these scores many times over his long and illustrious career, some accounts of which had been recorded before. But it's these two recordings that he personally approved for commercial release. Having been digitally remastered in the late 1990s, they sound better than ever. Toscanini's Missa continues to top the list of most music critics, while this account of the Ninth is–let's face it–a classic of the gramophone. Packaged together, and bargain priced, this is not something to be lightly dismissed. If ever there was an example of one genius paying homage to another, this is it.