Joseph HAYDN (1732 – 1809)
Missa Brevis in F major (1749) [11.41] (1)
Missa, Harmoniemesse (1802) [40.30] (2)
Ann Hoyt (soprano) (1)
Julie Liston (soprano) (1)
Nacole Palmer (soprano) (2)
Nina Faia (soprano) (2)
Kirsten Sollek (alto) (2)
Daniel Mutlu (tenor) (2)
Richard Lippold (bass) (1)
Matthew Hensrud (bass) (2)
Andrew Nolen (bass) (2)
Trinity Choir
Rebel Baroque Orchestra/J. Owen Burdick (conductor) (1); Jane Glover (conductor) (2)
rec. Trinity Church New York, 23-24 May 2001 (1), 5-6 September 2008 (2)
NAXOS 8.572126 [52.28]

On this delightful new disc Haydn’s first and last masses, Naxos further their relationship with Trinity Choir, which is a professional outfit based at Trinity Church in New York. In addition to services, they have a significant concert presence.

Haydn’s Missa Brevis is his earliest authenticated mass; the earlier Mass in G is probably spurious. Haydn wrote the work whilst still a student in Vienna. There are six concise movements, with texts from the Gloria and Credo being set simultaneously thus speeding up the movements but destroying comprehension. The soloists are used more like a semi-chorus, to punctuate and decorate the choral lines rather than being given solo movements in their own right.

Under their conductor, James Owen Burdick, Trinity Choir gives a charming and infectious account. Burdick’s speeds are perhaps on the steady side, but things never plod and soloists, chorus and orchestra deliver crisp, nicely articulated music.

Haydn’s HarmonieMesse is an altogether more meaty proposition. Written in 1802 for Princess Esterhazy’s name-day festivities, Haydn seems to have found the composition process difficult and wearisome, though this does not show in the music. After composing the mass, Haydn complained of fatigue and depression and finally resigned from his Esterhazy in 1804. He wrote no major pieces after the HarmonieMesse.

The name HarmonieMesse comes from the German Harmonie which refers to a wind band. This does not mean the mass is accompanied by just a wind band - which would have been interesting - but that the orchestra includes a full complement of wind rather than just a few instruments in addition to the strings.

Haydn makes the most of the possibilities for colour that this brings and the work is a charming delight. It is difficult to believe that this life-affirming music was written with such difficulty by a tired man.

For this mass the choir are directed by guest conductor Jane Glover. Glover seems to bring something extra to the performance, inspiring such joyous and infectious music-making from choir and orchestra. Though speeds never feel rushed, there is a liveliness and rhythmic delight in these performances missing from the Missa Brevis.

As with the Missa Brevis, Haydn uses his soloists rather akin to a semi-chorus. Trinity’s soloists are a young-sounding clear-voiced bunch who blend nicely with the choir and sound appealing on their own.

In both masses the choir make a fine, clear sound. They use female altos and sopranos and but with a clarity and fine texture which adds a suitable sophistication to the music.

The Rebel Baroque Orchestra accompanies both masses in an infectiously crisp fashion. My only complaint was in the matter of balance, when I felt that in the HarmonieMesse the wind section could have been a little more prominent. Sometimes their contribution is a little too discreet.

A fine disc particularly the wonderfully joyous account of the HarmonieMesse from Jane Glover. I certainly hope that she and Trinity Choir will be giving us more Haydn masses.

Robert Hugill

A fine disc particularly the wonderfully joyous account of the HarmonieMesse.