> Haydn Masses 98.392 [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Mass in F major, Hob.XXII:1(1749)
Mass in C major, Missa Cellensis, "Missa Sanctae Caeciliae", Hob.XXII:5 (c.1766)
The Choir of Trinity Church, Wall Street, REBEL Baroque Orchestra/Dr.Owen Burdick
Recorded 23rd-24th May 2001 at Trinity Church Wall Street
HÃNSSLER CLASSIC 98.392 [76:12]


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This issue will be of great interest to many people, as Trinity Wall Street is the closest church to the area now known as ‘Ground Zero’. The booklet contains a striking and rather moving account of 9/11 from Trinity’s point of view. Given that the church is just three blocks from where the Trade Center towers once stood, it seems miraculous that not only is the church itself undamaged, but even the beautiful stained glass windows (three of them pictured on the case of the CD) survived, while plate glass everywhere in the area was being shattered and scattered. The church itself was back in relatively normal use by November 4th 2001.

So this recording, though made some months before the horror struck, has a very special resonance to it. Good job then that it is such a pleasing and enjoyable one. Haydn’s Masses are, of course, a veritable musical goldmine, and we have here a charming early ‘missa brevis’ plus the composer’s lengthiest and most expansive mass, the St. Cecilia, written around 1766, though the date of its first performance is unknown. By the way, don’t be put off by the conductor’s use of his doctorate (not always a promising sign!); these are lively, stylish and very characterful performances.

One little moan; given the copious information in the booklet about Trinity Church, about the REBEL Baroque orchestra, about Burdick, about Haydn, and about pretty well every other aspect of the performances and the music, it is quite extraordinary that the solo singers are not credited anywhere that I could find. The solos in the early mass are quite undemanding, but those in the St. Cecilia are florid, technically difficult and fully developed. There really is no excuse for not giving the soloists prominent billing, even if they are, as I suspect, members of the choir who have ‘stepped up’.

The Dutch REBEL Baroque Orchestra (named after the French Baroque composer Jean-Féry Rebel) play superbly, with plenty of guts, and an appropriately forthright style, while the Choir of Trinity Church sing with wonderfully fresh tone in all four parts. They sound like a very young choir, providing just the right energetic yet light sound that you need for this music.

Returning to the soloists, the women’s voices are a delight, having the same clear and youthful tone as found in the choir, yet with the technical accomplishment needed for the challenging solos in the larger scale work. The two men are more problematic; the bass sings beautifully but is a little under-powered in his lower register, while the tenor has a very idiosyncratic tone – rather tight and throaty – that some people will find hard to listen to; a pity, because he actually sings stylishly and musically. I just wish I could tell you all of their names! (If anyone from hänssler reads this, please find out who they are, let me know and I’ll make sure they appear on the site).

There are some fine versions of the St. Cecilia Mass available, most notably by Hickox and Preston (the latter with Emma Kirkby sublime in the soprano solos), but nonetheless, this new CD is emphatically well worth a hearing, as it has a special quality of freshness and enthusiasm which the recording engineers have captured superbly well.
Gwyn Parry-Jones

A special quality of freshness and enthusiasm which the recording engineers have captured superbly well. … see Full Review

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