Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Masses: Volume 5
Missa in honorem BVM, ‘Grosse Orgelsolomesse’ in E-flat (Hob.XXII:4; 1768–9)1 [33:49]
Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida, ‘Heiligmesse’ in B-flat (Hob.XXII:10; 1796)2 [34:25]
Anna Hoyt (soprano)1,2; Luthien Brackett1, Hai-Ting Chinn2, Kiresten Sollek2 (alto); Stephen Sands1, Daniel Mutlu2 (tenor); Richard Lippold1,2, Andre Nolen2 (bass); Donsgok Shin (organ); Trinity Choir;
Rebel Baroque Orchestra/J. Owen Burdick
Rec. Trinity Church, New York; 9–10 May 2002 (Grosse Orgelsolomesse), 25–26 May 2006 (Heiligmesse). DDD.
The sung text and English translation can be accessed at
NAXOS 8.572125 [68:27]

There’s really no need to beat about the bush with a lengthy review: this is every bit as good and as thoroughly recommendable as Volume 3 of this series to which I recently gave a strong recommendation (8.572123: Bargain of the Month – see review). As on that earlier CD, the programme combines one of Haydn’s earliest masses – the Great Organ Solo Mass, which was among his first sacred compositions for the Esterházy court – with one of the better-known later masterpieces, the Heiligmesse of 1796, composed after his return to Esterháza.

The Heiligmesse is in no way an inferior work to the ‘Nelson’ Mass on the earlier volume – as with so many of Haydn’s works it’s really only the eye-catching nickname, which in any case really is a misnomer, that has made that mass more popular than the other late masses.

As its name implies, the Great Organ Solo Mass contains a prominent part for the instrument. It’s by no means a mere adjunct to the main menu; it’s very well worth hearing in its own right, combining lyrical and thoughtful elements. As before, all concerned give of their best, including on this occasion Dongsok Shin, who has kindly supplied MusicWeb International with information about the organ employed in this and other recordings in the series, not the digital organ at Trinity Church which replaced the instrument damaged in the 9/11 attack, but a small pipe instrument imported for the purpose – please see footnote at the end of John Sheppard’s review of the complete set.

In that review John Sheppard made the complete eight-disc set from which these individual volumes are being reissued his Recording of the Month (8.508009). He singled out Ann Hoyt, the soprano in both the masses on Volume 5, for special praise and I can only echo his comment that she is the equal of the much better-known soloists on the versions by Hickox, Guest and Bernstein. She is, however only the first among equals: the other soloists also acquit themselves extremely well, as do the choir and orchestra, and the direction is thoroughly idiomatic. I didn’t even object to J Owen Burdick’s habit of slowing at the end of each section, which was John Sheppard’s minor criticism.

In fact, my only reservation about the two volumes which have come my way is that the purchase of either will probably make you wish that you had gone for the complete set, available for an incredibly inexpensive £28.50 or so in the UK.

William Hedley also reviewed the complete set. Though he recommended it, he had more reservations than JS or myself, believing that energy and drive had been achieved at the expense of the essential Haydn elements of charm, grace and smiling benevolence. I understand where he’s coming from – both performances bounce along a little relentlessly at times – but the movements which he selects in the Heiligmesse, the openings of the Gloria, Credo and Sanctus are surely exactly the right places for the greatest stress on jubilation. The more subdued sections, such as the et incarnates est of the Credo, are subject to a more meditative approach. Indeed, WH himself admits that the ensuing Crucifixus is very successful – it’s one of the many wonders of this work and of the performance.

The recording is good, offering a convincing soundstage with just the right degree of reverberation, and the notes are brief but to the point. The absence of texts and translations is regrettable, especially when they would have taken so little space to include, but their availability online partly mitigates that, as does the link to them provided for subscribers to the Naxos Music Library. The Library also offers the booklet and insert to those who prefer to listen before buying. I can practically guarantee that anyone who streams this music first from there will want to purchase either the single CD or the complete set.

I shall not be abandoning other performances of these works, especially those in the Chandos complete series of Haydn Masses with Hickox at the helm (Grosse Orgelsolomesse with Missa Cellensis on CHAN0674; Heiligmesse with Nikolaimesse on CHAN0645) but I shall certainly return to these Naxos performances too.

Brian Wilson

It may make you want the complete set.