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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Missa Cellensis in C major Hob.XXII:5 (1766)
Lydia Teuscher (soprano); Marianne Beate Kielland (alto); Markus Schäfer (tenor); Harry van der Kamp (bass)
Anima Eterna/Jos van Immerseel
rec. live, Frauenkirche, Dresden, 21 June 2008
text and German, English and French translations included.
CARUS 83.247 [67:51]
Experience Classicsonline

Before anything else it is necessary to clarify which of Haydn’s two Masses sometimes called “Missa Cellensis” is recorded here. It is not the “Mariazeller Messe” of 1782 (Hob.XXII:8), but that known for many years as the “St Cecilia Mass”. Since the discovery in 1969 of an inscription on a previously missing part of the manuscript score which describes the latter as “Missa Cellensis in honorem Beatissinae Virginis Mariae del Guiseppe Haydn 1766” it has become clear that either Mass can be referred to as the “Missa Cellensis”. They are sometimes now distinguished by their sizes – this is the “Grosse Mariazeller Messe” – Carus only make this clear in the small print within an essay in the booklet - and the erudite will know it by its Hoboken number.
 
Anyone who buys this expecting the other “Missa Cellensis” might be disconcerted but should not be disappointed as both the work and the performance are first rate. Haydn’s late Masses are amongst his greatest works, and whilst it would be an exaggeration to describe this piece in that way it is certainly an imposing, interesting and sometimes moving work. Its length alone would set it apart from both earlier and later works, and only rarely is there any sense of routine in Haydn’s setting. Such passages as the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus are indeed amongst the composer’s finest music, and on their own they are sufficient reason to justify adding a recording of the work to you collection.
 
Although not one of the composer’s most recorded works, there have been several fine versions over the years, including those by Simon Preston and the late Richard Hickox. Like them the present version uses period instruments and a small choir - 16 voices in this case. I have not been able to compare them, but in any case this differs in being a live recording of what was clearly a very fine concert. The playing and singing throughout are idiomatic and show great understanding of the music. It used to be common, especially in more puritanical Anglo-Saxon circles, to look down on the elaborately decorative Masses of this period, with their elaborate vocal display and theatrical manner. The photographs of the Frauenkirche in the booklet however make it clear just how much a part of the aesthetic of the period this is, as the building itself appears closely to resemble a baroque theatre. The only problem that this sets is in acoustic terms, but the engineers have done well to capture both the large space and the detail of the piece and its performance.
 
The first page of the first published edition of this work (1807) is reproduced in the booklet together with the first page of Carus’s own modern edition. Immediately the listener without a score of this work realizes how clear and well produced the latter is, and probably will want to own a copy. Carus have perhaps missed a trick here, as there would surely be scope for some kind of incentive to such a prospective purchaser by offering some discount on the score to those with the disc or vice versa, or perhaps selling a combined score and recording package. That is however a detail. Most listeners rightly will simply be content with what they have here – a fine performance of a still-underrated and under-performed work. Presentation and recording are up to the same high standards as the performance.
 
John Sheppard
 

 


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