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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Luigi GATTI (1740-1817)
Schöpfungmesse in A (ca1803-05) [29:06]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Schöpfungmesse in B Hob XXII:13 (1801) [40:38]
Anna Korondi (soprano), Annette Markert (alto),
Yves Saelens (Tenore), Klaus Mertens (Basso)
Dresdener Kreuzkor & Philharmonie/Roderich Kriele
rec. live, 12-13 September 2008, Frauenkirche Dresden.
CARUS 83.245 [69:64]
Experience Classicsonline

Not to be confused with Haydn’s great oratorio Die Schöpfung, Haydn’s Schöpfungmesse was given its name because of the section in the Gloria which quotes from the duet “Graceful Consort!” The piece was written after the great success of The Creation in 1800, and The Seasons of 1801, but while it can stand among Haydn’s late works, it simultaneously retreats somewhat from the more adventurous oratorio style he had developed in those two works, and makes use of the newer style for solemn masses which arose around 1800. Written after Haydn had resumed his duties as Kapellmeister to Prince Nicolaus Esterházy, the Missa in B flat major has no solo arias, and follows the ‘missa solemnis’ orchestration which traditionally included trumpets as well as strings and continuo. The choruses are usually in homophonic, vertically arranged blocks, and the counterpoint which occurs is restricted to fugato - in fugue style rather than composed as fully blown fugues.

The solo voices are given a number of ensemble settings, and an airing of the Miserere nobis of the Gloria, shows that the soloists are generally fine. There is a bit more wobbly vibrato going on with the ladies than we’ve become accustomed to in recordings which might lay claim to a more ‘authentic’ pedigree, but the singing in the Haydn mass is generally in expressive balance with the rest of the performance. For some reason, the Schöpfungmesse has received less attention than the Nelson or the Harmoniemesse in the record catalogue, but there is plenty of interesting harmonic contrast to be found here.

Probably the main USP of this disc will be the world premiere recording of Luigi Gatti’s adaptation of the Die Schöpfung, this time creating a Mass in the key of A. Luigi Gatti made his name as an opera composer in Mantua, subsequently working in Salzburg in 1783. Undated, it is surmised that this Creation Mass dates from the period in which Archduke Ferdinand of Tuscany temporarily revived the fortunes of court composers after the disastrous Napoleonic Wars. Gatti selected movements from The Creation which matched the proportions of the ordinary mass, and adapted the liturgical texts to suit the music. Haydn’s orchestral score was arranged to suit the instrumental forces available in Salzburg while maintaining the music’s structure. Salzburg’s court music was disbanded in 1806, and this is one of the reasons for this work’s languishing in obscurity until its revival in 2001. Another reason is probably that, with the continuing popularity of The Creation in its original form, this mass would always have been something of a redundant oddity. Thus it remains, with familiar picturesque pieces and secular passages floating out of your loudspeakers, wedded to the Latin religious texts of the mass. Hearing something like an ‘Agnus Dei’ to the tune of ‘In holder Anmut stehn, mit jungem Grün geschmückt’ certainly starts out having a rather P.D.Q. Bach feel to it, and this effect will endure most for those who know Die Schöpfung very well. Gatti does his adaptation well enough, but nothing can take away the fact that this is a chimera which is has a certain historical interest, but is no substitute for the real thing.

This Carus release is a live recording, and has something of the energy of such an occasion. There is hardly any audience noise, and the recorded balanced is fine, with plenty of detail in the big Frauenkirche acoustic. I’ve been quite a fan of this label’s releases in the past and I don’t want to be overly critical, but wouldn’t put this at the top of their ‘best of’ list. The orchestra is good enough, and the choir sings accurately but is a bit shouty at times. This is noticeable in the Gatti which hits some pretty high extremes and is altogether a highly demanding choral score, but parts of the Haydn can also be something of a bumpy choral ride, without a great deal of space allowed for shaping and phrasing of the music. As mentioned the soloists - particularly the females - are of the wobbly operatic variety, which I personally don’t find all that appealing. Tenor Yves Saelens also sounds a bit hoarse here and there. My recommendation for Haydn’s Schöpfungmesse would probably be Richard Hickox with Collegium Musicum on Chandos, which wins on every front, and certainly in terms of overall subtlety. The premiere recording of the intriguing Schöpfungmesse by Luigi Gatti has its own value, and collectors will know if they want to supplement their Haydn with such an offshoot. As far as this goes, these are both serviceable performances, but I fear not ones which will prove to become major hits.

Dominy Clements



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