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An invigorating performance

Koerner Hall
05/15/2013 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D Major, Opus 123
Shannon Mercer (Soprano), Krisztina Szabó (Mezzo-soprano), Michael Colvin (Tenor), Michael Adair (Baritone)
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Festival Orchestra, Noel Edison (Conductor)

(© Frank Nagy)

Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis doesn’t come around often enough, a fact that prevents it from becoming stale - and all the more reason to welcome it when it does get programmed.

This was the final program this season presented under the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s own auspices, which I suspect is why the full complement of 122 singers was used. This turned out to create an acoustic overload in the 1100-seat hall, the effect of which was exhilarating most of the time. The drawback was that our ears had trouble adjusting to the quieter moments when featuring a vocal soloist or the magical violin introduction to the Benedictus.

Noel Edison does a fine job with Beethoven - I recall a smartly-delivered Choral Symphony some years ago, as well as a Missa Solemnis at his Elora Festival back in the 1990s.

In this performance he maintained a steady, energetic pulse that I can best describe as organic. The Amen at the end of the Credo was notably melting, and the outbreak of war amidst the Dona nobis pacem was appropriately abrupt. Toward the end there is a little symphonic interlude (rather an odd intrusion, but it’s what Beethoven wanted) and this was crisply defined.

The soloists were well-chosen, although baritone Michael Adair was at a disadvantage in that his light-toned voice tended to get lost; a growly bass or bass-baritone would have provided a counterweight to the long stretches of vociferous high-lying phrases in the Gloria and Credo. The first entry of Michael Colvin, Shannon Mercer and Krisztina Szabó in the Kyrie was a wonderful moment as their voices gently detached from the choral lines.

This performance was a success (a festive moment in fact), but perhaps the 70-voice Mendelssohn Singers would have been more appropriate in Koerner Hall; otherwise Roy Thomson Hall would have been a more congenial space. Sound quantity, even when well-produced, can trump quality.

Michael Johnson



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