In his "Missa Solemnis," Beethoven is exuberant when portraying a universe rejoicing in heavenly glory. He is intimate when painting an Incarnation of stained-glass colors and delicacy. But he is his most personal -- and most present to us -- when invoking a prayer for peace in a landscape of desolation and fear.
It was in the smaller rather than the grandiose moments of this great Mass that conductor Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale made the most impact Sunday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
At such times, the meaning of the texts, the focused clarity of the singing and the relationship between voices and orchestra converged ideally. Similar moments included the comforting lower strings at the opening of the Sanctus and the ardent solo by concertmaster Barry Socher that threaded through the lovely Benedictus.
Most unforgettable was the sense of an abyss virtually without hope that opened the Agnus Dei. If Gershon then swung too easily, with too much confidence, into the ensuing Dona Nobis Pacem, Beethoven dispelled that certainty soon enough by loosening the drums and trumpets of war.