Chandos' Haydn series continues at a furious pace and after a highly successful
'Nelson Mass' we are being treated to a magnificent new recording of the
pompous 'Heiligmesse' was long overdue. Hickox's team of soloists accredit
themselves quite superbly and the flair and panache of the Collegium Musicum
90 makes for an excellent and highly accomplished interpretation. The conductor
favours generally high speeds, which add to the exhilaration of the proceedings.
The 'Gloria' is particularly trenchant both in its irrepressible rhythmic
drive and in its pensive lyrical perorations. These masses show Haydn at
his finest symphonic aspirations, this 'Heiligmesse' recalls Beethoven's
grander efforts in his Missa Solemnis but is uniquely Haydn especially in
the martial Agnus Dei that is not far off from the more famous 'Paukenmesse'.
Lorna Anderson sings her high-throated solos superbly and there is also excellent
support from Hickox and his choral forces that belie their size by their
rumbustious and grossly energic contributions.
With the Missa 'Sancti Nicolai' we are back in Haydn's early days. The
introspective and quiet nature of the music is far removed from the irresistible
energy of the 'Heiligmesse' and makes a really viable coupling. The intimate
scoring is quite magical and the orchestra's timbre is quite superbly matched
especially in the many instrumental solos that dot the proceedings like chapels
in a countryside. However it is queer to note that the Agnus Dei is rather
extensive at over six minutes in length even longer than the Heiligmesse.
Hickox's interpretation is satisfyingly spacious and has good momentum although
I still prefer Simon Preston's thrilling late 70's recording for the then
'L'Oiseau Lyre'. That contains a sense of excitement and discovery that is
occasionally lacking here. One must not be mean however, for with a superbly
vivid recording and wonderful presentation, this new Chandos issue is surely
the one to have for the 'Heiligmesse' at least. I look forward to further
issues in this fast rising series of excellence.