BEETHOVEN: Mass in C Major, Op. 86 – Gundula Janowitz, soprano/
Julia Hamari, alto/ Horst R. Laubenthal, tenor/ Ernst Gerald Schramm, bass/ Elmar Schloter, organ /Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra/ Karl Richter – HDTT #121 [CD-R], 46:05 ****:
Taken from 4-track DGG tape, this fine realization of the Beethoven 1807 Mass in C Major features the excellent leadership of the late Karl Richter (1926-1981), whose own musicianship embraced splendid organ virtuosity and the building of the Munich Bach Choir, his especial vocal instrument. Proceeding in thirds, the opening Kyrie soon opens the harmonic universe with an E Major evocation of Christ‚s grace. While the first two sections of the Mass, the Kyrie and Gloria, were merely aurally splendid and broad-tempoed, the Credo totally ravished me at the “Et incarnates est;” Gundula Janowitz and the Munich Bach Orchestra trumpets blowing me out of my seat.
The Sanctus seems to descend out of some rare ether long distilled from earthly considerations, although the tympani part keeps us earthbound. The contrapuntal “Pleni sunt coeli et terra” takes us through the marriage of heaven and earth, the organ punctuating wonderfully colossal chords from the upper-register choristers. Janowtiz and Hamari shine in the Benedictus, with its several hints at Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Lovely flute and string windings among the vocal elements. The vocal quartet at the Benedictus provides a devout intimacy of effect. Lovely vocal separation at the Hosanna in excelesis, punctuated by large horn, string, and organ chords. The C Minor rumblings that open the Agnus Dei convey a darkness of spirit and fretfulness over the state of our world. Fascinating color effects as the woodwinds and strings intertwine with the pleas for an end to human suffering. The vocal virtuosity at “dona nobis pacem” proves aerially operatic, and the subsequent move to C Major renews our faith in our collective will to survival. One small caveat to this otherwise highly recommended recording: the bands are mis-labeled at four; there are five.
— Gary Lemco