The Missa Solemnis may be the greatest piece never heard. Nearly 90 minutes long, it requires a large chorus, an orchestra and four soloists. It’s impractical for the concert hall and fits far less comfortably into a Catholic church service. It concludes with a fraught, fragile and unanswered plea for peace amid the drumbeats of war. But the answer comes in the Ninth Symphony, with its chorale finale based on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” written in a time of revolution.
Those words and Beethoven’s music call for humankind to kneel before the creator, but for answers to turn to one another. The path to peace, he suggests, is bestowed not from above, but from within us and among us, in universal brotherhood.
(Note: I recently had the fortune of hearing a memorable rendition of the Missa Solemnis at the Boston Symphony Hall and feel that its message of universal brotherhood is particularly poignant on a day when Abbas posted his essay on Mohammed Cartoon Madness and Understanding. If you do not own a copy of this CD, go get one today.)