Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Mass No.2 in F major Missa Brevis (1749, rev. 1805) [11:56]
Mass No. 13 in B flat Major Creation Mass (1801) [41:01]
Ann Hoyt (soprano); Julie Liston (soprano); Richard Lippold (bass); Nicole Palmer (soprano); Nina Faia (soprano); Kirsten Sollek (alto); Daniel Mutlu (tenor); Mathew Hensrud (tenor); Andrew Nolen (bass)
Rebel Baroque Orchestra/J. Owen Burdick (Missa Brevis); Jane Glover (Creation Mass);
rec. 23-24 May 2001 (Missa Brevis), 8-9 September 2008 (Creation Mass), Trinity Church, New York. DDD.
Texts Included
NAXOS 8.572127 [53:08]

Haydn wrote more than a dozen masses and the last six number are numbered among his greatest works. These last six include the Mass in Time of War, the Nelson Mass and the Creation Mass heard here along with the early Mass No.2. Both these recordings are taken from the Naxos set of the complete Haydn masses. This particular volume is No.7 in the series.

The Mass No.2 (Missa Brevis) was written when Haydn was only 17 years old and exists on the border between the Baroque and Classical periods. The version heard here is the composer’s revision of 1805 adding several wind and brass instruments. It follows the old models in terms of musical formulae and in the choral phrasing and the actual sound owes more to the Baroque than the Classical. But much of the vocal writing and certainly the rhythmic elements belong to the Classical style and remind us of Haydn as we know him best.

The Creation Mass shows Haydn as a complete master of choral writing (the title comes from the use of a theme from his famous oratorio in the Gloria at the “Qui tollis peccata mundi”). In this work as in the other late masses, individual themes appear in multiple movements, lending both structural reinforcement and dramatic emphasis. At the same time, the orchestra is an integral part of the whole rather than merely accompanying the vocal/choral parts. The Kyrie in this work is notable for the contrast between its slow introduction and the joyousness of the sung music that follows. The Gloria is full of touching solo parts, especially those given to the bass. Also impressive is the fugal passage on “Gloria Dei Patris” that is quickly developed symphonically. The Credo is perhaps the most beautiful section of the mass with wonderful writing for the basses and interesting antiphonal passages between the organ and the winds. In the Sanctus Haydn has written the most serious music in the work, although there are also passages reminiscent of eighteenth century dance music. The serious side of the composer’s nature is also evident in the Agnus Dei, which seems almost strained emotionally before leading to the joyous conclusion.

There are so many soloists on this disc that one cannot discuss them all. But especially worthy of mention are Ann Hoyt in the Missa Brevis and Andrew Nolen in the Creation Mass. The Trinity Choir is quite expert rhythmically and in terms of pronunciation, but they are sometimes defeated by the rather cavernous sound of Trinity Church. As always, the Rebel Baroque orchestra, based in New York, brings clean lines and incisive style to their performance.

An interesting aspect of the Naxos Haydn Masses set is that the conducting duties are shared between the Music Director of Trinity Church, J. Owen Burdick, and the Mozart expert Jane Glover. Mr. Burdick’s rendition of the Missa Brevis is genial and sunny, but is somewhat lacking in drive. Ms. Glover’s performance of the Creation Mass is more exciting, but not as focused as it could be.

William Kreindler

Overall, a very serviceable disc of these two masses, although some listeners may miss the more traditional full-orchestra treatment.