Stratford-upon-Avon choral society’s Autumn concert is the magnificent Missa Solemnis by Beethoven on Saturday November 17th 2007 in Holy Trinity Church, Old Town, Stratford at 7.30pm.

Beethoven (1770-1827) was not a man of the church and he wrote very little music to religious texts. The Mass in D, or Missa Solemnis. was begun in 1819 (by which time he was very deaf’ and was intended for the enthronement of Beethoven’s patron the Archduke Rudolph as archbishop, in the next year. In fact it was not completed until 1823 and Beethoven seems to have worked on it with no specific event in mind. Moreover he had little apparent regard for the practicalities of performances, as the work is of a scale, both in length and in the required number of performers, that would rarely be available or appropriate to a liturgical performance of masses. For the first (incomplete) performance in Vienna in a theatre, quite different German words were used. Apart from such considerations, the work itself makes considerable demands on all the singers. The original director made protest to Beethoven on behalf of his sopranos and now I understand why!

This suggests that, even more than usual, Beethoven was writing for himself, or rather to express his own rather unconventional religious feelings. He wrote on the score ‘From the heart’ … considering it one of his best works. It is an impressive composition with rapidly changing emotions, different phrases and longer passages shaped to the meaning or the text.

Music director Stephen Dodsworth will conduct the Stratford Choral Society and the Regency Sinfonia with professional soloists: soprano Lisa Wilson, alto Alexandra Gibson, tenor David Brown and bass James Holiday. The choral society was first formed in 1836 and shares with the Huddersfield Choral Society the accolade of being one of the oldest choral societies in the country.

For Missa Solemnis concert tickets £12 (adults) or £6 (students) or further information, phone Carol Jackson on 01386 841440. Tickets also available at Civic Hall Box Office, Holy Trinity Bookstall and Stratford Music Shop, Rother St. Up to two children under 16 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

(From the Chipping Campden Bulletin. Reproduced with kind permission of Jeremy Green)