Monteverdi Choir/ORR/Gardiner – review

Barbican, London

For the second time this year, the Barbican has heard a wondrous performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis conducted by a giant of the 20th-century performance-practice revolution. But that is where the similarity ends. Six months ago, Nikolaus Harnoncourt's version with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Choir was awesomely spacious and lovingly austere, leading my colleague Tim Ashley to conclude that though there can be no such thing as a definitive Missa Solemnis, this was among the greatest you are ever likely to hear.

There were long periods in John Eliot Gardiner's account with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, and with the Monteverdi Choir in magnificent voice, that you felt exactly the same thing. Yet the two performances could hardly have been more different. Not only did Gardiner's period-instrument orchestra produce a more daringly coloured account – nowhere more so than in the contemplative fibrousness of the violas and cellos at the start of the Sanctus – but Gardiner's whole approach had an exuberant physicality that was wholly foreign to Harnoncourt's more rapturous conception. Spirited rather than spiritual, perhaps, but proof that there are many roads to Beethoven.

There was hardly a passage that did not show the result of Gardiner's hallmark relentless intelligence and audacity. The Kyrie tingled with anxiety. The Gloria was a wheel of fire. The vividness of the Credo sparkled with colour and confidence. The Sanctus had a fragility, emphasised by the lack of vibrato in Peter Hanson's delicate violin solo, that felt entirely authentic. The Agnus Dei had a willed ecstasy echoing the finale of the Pastoral Symphony, and Gardiner pulled no punches as the sounds of war forced themselves into the final prayer for peace. The commitment to the cause from orchestra and choir was plain to hear, while Lucy Crowe and James Gilchrist stood out in a strong quartet of soloists.

• What have you been to see lately? Tell us about it on Twitter using #GdnReview

Contributor

Martin Kettle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner – review

John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir celebrated their 50th anniversary with a glorious – if perhaps too manicured – period performance of the Vespers of 1610, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

06, Mar, 2014 @2:18 PM

Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner – review
Virtuosic both compositionally and in the demands they make on performers, this sequence comprises a compendium of technical skills that display Bach's astonishing range, writes George Hall

George Hall

05, Oct, 2011 @6:00 PM

Monteverdi Choir/EBS/Gardiner – review
This concert marked the release of the last disc in John Eliot Gardiner's ambitious Bach Cantata Pilgrimage – and it showed the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists remain at the top of this game, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

14, Dec, 2010 @10:15 PM

CBSO/Knussen; Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner – review
Oliver Knussen conducted in a characteristically fastidious, inspired way, embracing extremes of time and of feeling, writes Rian Evans

Rian Evans

19, Jun, 2012 @4:37 PM

Article image
Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner review – wonderfully committed and scrupulously focused
A disparate programme of Monteverdi, Schubert and Brahms was linked by themes of love and dancing

Tim Ashley

06, May, 2015 @1:45 PM

CBSO/Nelsons; Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner | Proms review

Royal Albert Hall, London
Nelsons relished every detail of the instrumental palette and the CBSO's immense dynamic range found full expression in an evening of orchestral lushness, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

29, Jul, 2009 @10:05 PM

Article image
Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner, Barbican, London

Barbican, London

Tom Service

17, Sep, 2002 @10:11 AM

Article image
Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner, Cadogan Hall, London

Cadogan Hall, London

George Hall

20, Dec, 2005 @12:15 PM

Article image
Prom 54: ORR/Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner review – the demands of Missa Solemnis were thrillingly met

John Eliot Gardiner brought tremendous force to Beethoven's massive work, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

27, Aug, 2014 @3:34 PM

Article image
Proms 75 & 76 | Classical review
Royal Albert Hall, London
Renée Fleming's intensity and precision of feeling was a masterclass in itself, writes Guy Dammann

Guy Dammann

12, Sep, 2010 @2:19 PM