After his colleagues updated the music system they had given him five years earlier, Einstein began repeatedly to play an RCA recording of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. It was an unusual choice for two reasons. He tended to regard Beethoven, who was not his favorite composer, as “too personal, almost naked.” Also, his religious instincts did not usually include these sorts of trappings. “I am a deeply religious nonbeliever,” he noted to a friend who had sent him birthday greetings. “This is a somewhat new kind of religion.”
- From Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe (Simon and Schuster, 2007)
Responses to a questionnaire. Though the questionnaire itself appears to have been lost, "...the questions on it can be inferred more or less from Einstein's responses..."
(1) Bach, Mozart, and some old Italian and English composers are my favorites in music. Beethoven considerably less -- but certainly Schubert.
(2) It is impossible for me to say whether Bach or Mozart means more to me. In music I do not look for logic. I am quite intuitive on the whole and know no theories. I never like a work if I cannot intuitively grasp its inner unity (architecture).
(3) I always feel that Handel is good -- even perfect -- but that he has a certain shallowness. Beethoven is for me too dramatic and too personal.
(4) Schubert is one of my favorites because of his superlative ability to express emotion and his enormous powers of melodic invention. But in his larger works I am disturbed by a certain lack of architectonics [German: "Architektonik"].
(5) Schumann is attractive to me in his smaller works because of their originality and richness of feeling, but his lack of formal greatness prevents my full enjoyment. In Mendelssohn I perceive considerable talent but an indefinable lack of depth that often leads to banality.
(6) I find a few lieder and chamber works by Brahms truly signficant, also in their structure. But most of his works have for me no inner persuasiveness. I do not understand why it was necessary to write them.
(7) I admire Wagner's inventiveness, but I see his lack of architectural structure as decadence. Moreover, to me his musical personality is indescribably offensive so that for the most part I can listen to him only with disgust.
(8) I feel that [Richard] Strauss is gifted, but without inner truth and concerned only with outside effects. I cannot say that I care nothing for modern music in general. I feel that Debussy is delicately colorful but shows a poverty of structure. I cannot work up great enthusiasm for something of that sort.(from Albert Einstein's Taste in Music (on Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, et al.))
Missa Solemnis in D, Op.123 (1823)
Luba Orgonasova, soprano, Catherine Robbin, mezzo-soprano, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor, Alastair Miles, bass
NDR-Chor / Monteverdi Choir / NDR Sinfonieorchester / John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
Recorded at Marienkirche Lübeck, 1994
Linklist (71 min)