by Mike Telin
“Beethoven’s Mass in C is a wonderful piece and under-performed in my opinion — at least in this country,” Cleveland Orchestra Director of Choruses Robert Porco told us by telephone. “And I don’t know exactly why that is. People like to do the Missa Solemnis, which is an entirely different kind of piece and was written some fifteen years later.”
On Thursday, October 31 and Saturday, November 2 in Severance Hall, Franz Welser-Möst leads The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in performances of Beethoven’s Mass in C and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine. Also included on the program is Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue.
The Mass in C was commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II. “He was the same person for whom Haydn wrote his wonderful masses. I only mention this because the late Haydn masses are not performed that often either.”
According to history, Esterházy did not like the work — which caused Beethoven to leave abruptly. “Esterházy wrote letters about how much the piece embarrassed him. People have asked me why he thought that and I can’t really answer that either except that he was very accustomed to hearing what Haydn had written.” In his The Life of Beethoven, (1998) musicologist David Wyn Jones recounts, “Nikolaus later wrote to Countess Henriette Zielinska, ‘Beethoven’s music is unbearably ridiculous and detestable; I am not convinced it can ever be performed properly. I am angry and ashamed.'” [Read more…]