Last Tuesday evening the Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in their annual concert at Symphony Hall. The work selected was Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Soloists were Jeanette Vreeland, soprano; Kathryn Meisle, alto; John Pricbe, tenor; and Mack Harrell, bass. Dr. Koussevitzky conducted.
It is surprising that a work of such beauty and power could emerge from the conditions surrounding its composition. Whether intentionally or no, Beethoven indulged in considerable shady dealing over the Missa Solemnis. After promising the score to some six different publishers, he finally presented it to a seventh; and a contract with the symphony orchestra in London for exclusive rights did not deter him from presenting it first on the continent.
No trace of such transactions can be found in the Mass; the composer must have been living in a world apart while writing what is generally considered to be one of his greatest works. Perhaps its most impressive feature is the smooth, unified flow of his music as it passes rapidly from mood to mood, from the mighty, dramatic ascent of the Credo to the sweet simplicity of the Sanctus. This composition is essentially one of strongly contrasting moments, and Dr. Koussevitzky's very vigorous interpretation seems to us ideal, without any undue exaggeration of the powerful passages. After all, this work, deeply religious as it is, certainly was never designed to be sung in an ordinary church atmosphere.
Dr. Davidson and Mr. Woodworth deserve great credit for the fine training they have given the chorus in preparing this work. The attacks were clean, the tone was pure, and there was plenty of body in the choral sections. Although the orchestra occasionally became a bit indefinite in its playing of the Gloria and the Credo, it redeemed itself gloriously in the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. The soloists on the whole sang well and with feeling.