About this Recording
8.572124 - HAYDN, J.: Masses, Vol. 4 - Masses Nos. 8, "Mariazellermesse" and 10, "Paukenmesse" (Trinity Choir, Rebel Baroque Orchestra, Burdick)
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Haydn’s Masses


The ‘father of the symphony’ and master of conversational wit in the string quartet, [Franz] Joseph Haydn is viewed today principally in the light of his instrumental music. According to his nineteenth-century biographer Georg August Griesinger, however, Haydn sometimes wondered if ‘instead of so many quartets, sonatas, and symphonies, he should have written more vocal music’ ¹. While our modern image of Haydn tends to neglect his vocal compositions, they comprise a large part of his oeuvre—and sacred music in particular played a unique role in his musical development. Haydn’s formative musical experiences were as a choirboy, and his first and last compositions were Mass settings. His Masses were popular during his lifetime, travelling to Catholic countries all along the Danube and making their way into concert halls after Breitkopf and Härtel published seven of them in the first part of the nineteenth century. Sacred music also figured prominently in the composer’s musical philosophy; in Haydn’s mind, compositional process and even artistic inspiration were indelibly linked to spirituality. Griesinger reports: ‘“If, when I am composing, things don’t go quite right,” I heard him say, “I walk up and down the room with my rosary in my hand, say several Aves, and then the ideas come again.”’ ² While his instrumental music is clearly inspired, perhaps Haydn’s sacred music—in particular, his twelve complete and authenticated Mass settings—brings us closest to the source of his artistic inspiration.

Haydn showed vocal talent at an early age. Around 1740, the Kapellmeister at St Stephen’s in Vienna, Georg Reutter, recruited him as a choirboy. Haydn received a well-rounded musical education at the church, learning keyboard, violin and composition in addition to singing. In his autobiographical writings, Haydn gives a light-hearted description of his early attempts to compose: ‘I used to think then that it was all right if only the paper were pretty full. Reutter laughed at my immature output, at measures that no throat and no instrument could have executed, and he scolded me for composing in sixteen parts before I understood two-part setting.’ ³ Reutter’s instruction was predominantly practical in nature; although Haydn remembered only two formal lessons, Griesinger writes that ‘Reutter did encourage him to make whatever variations he liked on the motets and the Salves that he had to sing in church, and this practice early led him to ideas of his own, which Reutter corrected’ 4. Haydn was forced to leave the school when his voice broke, and at the juncture of this important transition composed his first authenticated Mass, the Missa brevis in F major (1749). After leaving St Stephen’s, Haydn moved into the Michaelerhaus near St Michael’s Cathedral—coincidentally several floors above the famous librettist Metastasio. Through the poet he met the Italian composer Nicola Porpora, whom he credited with teaching him the Italian singing style and manner of composition. As Haydn said in 1766, ‘I wrote diligently, but not entirely correctly, until I had the good fortune to learn the true fundamentals of composition from the celebrated Porpora.’ 5

As with most composers of his era, Haydn’s musical output was closely linked to the needs of patrons. In 1761 he was hired as an assistant to the Esterházy court’s aging Kapellmeister Gregor Werner and was put in charge of all musical activities with the exception of sacred music, a responsibility that was added after Werner’s death in 1766. In spite of Prince Nicolaus Esterházy’s reported lack of interest in church music, Haydn composed a number of sacred works between 1766 and 1772 that showcase his facility with the various styles and traditions associated with Austrian church music, including the first Missa Cellensis (or Cäcilienmesse), the Stabat Mater, the Missa in honorem BVM (or Grosse Orgelsolomesse) and the Missa Sancti Nicolai (or Nikolaimesse). After the construction of an Italian opera house and marionette theatre at Eszterháza, the Prince’s new summer residence, Haydn transferred his focus from sacred to secular vocal music, composing only two Mass settings between 1772 and 1782: the Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (or Kleine Orgelsolomesse) in the mid 1770s, and the second Missa Cellensis (the Mariazellermesse) in 1782.

With Prince Nicolaus’s preference for opera, his successor Prince Anton’s complete lack of interest in music, and the emperor Joseph II’s church music reforms of the 1780s all working against him, Haydn didn’t return to the Mass text for fourteen years. After Prince Anton’s death in 1794, however, the new prince, Nicolaus II, called his Kapellmeister back into service. Whereas Prince Nicolaus I had preferred the isolation of Eszterháza in Hungary, Nicolaus II enjoyed the more urban setting of Vienna, and Haydn stayed in the city until his death in 1809 (with the exception of summers, when he travelled with the Esterházy court to Eisenstadt). As part of his duties, Haydn was required to write a Mass each year to celebrate the nameday of Princess Marie Hermenegild, Nicolaus II’s wife, and between 1796 and 1802 Haydn composed six Masses in fulfilment of this responsibility: the Heiligmesse, Paukenmesse, Nelsonmesse, Theresienmesse, Schöpfungsmesse and Harmoniemesse. Haydn’s relationship with Nicolaus II was sometimes rocky, but the Princess was much friendlier than her notoriously difficult husband and reportedly made sure that Haydn’s favourite wine (Málaga) was served to him on a regular basis. While some of Haydn’s contemporaries criticised his late Masses as ‘too cheerful to be sacred’, their exuberance is perhaps due at least in part to his warm relationship with the Princess.

Haydn’s association with the Esterházy family may have provided the impetus for most of his Mass settings, but his ideas about faith in general gave them their unique spirit. Haydn’s biographer Griesinger writes of the composer’s approach to religion: ‘Altogether his devotion was not of a sort which is gloomy and forever in penance but rather cheerful, reconciled, trusting—and in this mould his church music, too, is composed.’ 6 This optimistic quality caused a certain amount of consternation, particularly in regard to Haydn’s late Masses. According to Haydn’s student Sigismund Neukomm, some maligned the works for their ‘more elegant and less ecclesiastical style’ 7. Albert Christoph Dies, another contemporary biographer, commented that some listeners found Haydn’s lively tempos and frequent use of waltz-like metres more suitable for the dance hall than the church, while the theatrical arias ‘with their exaggeratedly sensual and superficial performances…can very easily banish devotion but can never awaken it’ 8. As these criticisms illustrate, listeners had particular expectations when it came to sacred music, and Haydn’s settings depend upon an intimate acquaintance with these established Viennese traditions. At the same time that the works illustrate his fluency with the vernacular of sacred music, however, the Masses display an inspiration and an originality that belong to Haydn alone.


Missa Cellensis, ‘Mariazellermesse’ in C major
(Hob.XXII:8; 1782)

Between 1772 and 1796, Haydn composed only two Mass settings, neither of which was written for the court. One of these was the Mariazellermesse of 1782, also known as the second Missa Cellensis. While an inscription on the autograph manuscript, ‘Missa Cellensis Fatta per il Signor Liebe de Kreutzner’, tells us that the work was commissioned by retired military officer Anton Liebe de Kreutzner, the reason it was requested is not as clearly stated. One theory proposes that the Mariazellermesse was first performed at one of the celebrations commemorating Kreutzner’s ennoblement, which had taken place the previous year. Kreutzner was also a member of the Viennese brotherhood responsible for services in honour of the Mariazell pilgrimages, and it is even more likely that he commissioned the piece on behalf of the group. Whatever the specific reason for its composition, the Mariazellermesse quickly became one of Haydn’s most popular Masses. As Haydn scholar H.C. Landon explains, ‘it is clear that with this Missa Cellensis…he reached, and reached with panache and astonishing vigour, the popular style for which he had been so long and so diligently searching in his instrumental music’ 9. For this reason, the Mariazellermesse is often understood as both the precursor to Haydn’s late Masses as well as the culmination of his early efforts in the genre.

One key to the Mariazellermesse’s popularity might be the easy way in which Haydn intermingles familiar strategies and elements of symphonic style. The work displays many ties to tradition: Haydn wrote the work in C major, the key most commonly used in Viennese Mass settings and one he rarely used in his own. Haydn also draws on many standard procedures in the Gloria, switching between choral and solo statements (as was customary) to emphasise important phrases like ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis’ (‘Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us’). The first part of the Credo recalls the Grosse Orgelsolomesse of the late 1760s, as the choir, supported by rapid string accompaniment, proceeds through the text in an almost declamatory fashion. Haydn also uses word-painting: ‘Crucifixus’ is dramatised with gentle chromaticism, while ‘sepultus est’ (‘was buried’) is dramatised with low notes. The opening of the lyrical Sanctus is even based on a Marian pilgrimage song. Other features of the Mariazellermesse are less typical, however, particularly the way in which Haydn uses large-scale form. In both the Kyrie and Credo, he creates sonata-like structures by recapitulating the opening material. Also unusual is the Benedictus, which Haydn—in a rare instance of self-borrowing—based on an aria from his opera Il mondo della luna (1777).


Missa in tempore belli, ‘Paukenmesse’ in C major
(Hob.XXII:9; 1796)

Fourteen years elapsed between the Mariazellermesse and his next two Mass settings, the Missa in tempore belli (‘Mass in time of war’), also known as the Paukenmesse, and the Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida, or Heiligmesse. (Which work was composed first has been the subject of debate; while both were written in 1796, it is now believed that Haydn performed the Heiligmesse for the 1796 nameday celebration, and the Paukenmesse during the festivities the following year.) As suggested by its original title, contemporary events had a major impact on the ‘Mass in time of war’. The 1793 execution of Louis XVI had instigated a European war that was still ongoing, and Austria and its territories were under attack for the first time since the Turkish siege in 1683. According to the biographer Griesinger, while at work on the Mass Haydn learnt that the French were threatening Styria (the southeast region of Austria). The first documented performance of the Missa in tempore belli actually took place on 26 December 1797 at the Primitae (first Mass celebration) of the recently ordained priest Joseph Franz von Hofmann—an occasion at which references to political turmoil might seem out of place. The Mass was likely requested by Hofmann’s father Johann, however, who held the post of Imperial Royal Kriegzahlmeister (‘Paymaster for War’). The connection was certainly clear in the minds of contemporary listeners; as one witness later described the occasion, ‘a colossal crowd of people came from all over, also many of the nobility, the more so since the most respected and world-famous Herr von Haydn…performed his new and certainly majestic Mass (the War Mass), which he conducted’ 10.

Whereas the instrumental forces available to Haydn for the Nelsonmesse had been restricted, he was able to use the Harmonie (oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns, who also played the trumpet parts) as well as strings, organ and timpani in the Missa in tempore belli. Haydn later reworked the instrumentation, adding a part for flute as well as expanding the clarinet and horn parts. Elements of Haydn’s new approach to the Mass, including simple melodies, dramatic extremes, more frequent integration of solo and chorus, and a new approach to large-scale form can be found in all the sections, but the Benedictus and Agnus Dei are the most strikingly programmatic. Haydn makes the unorthodox choice of beginning the Benedictus in the minor mode, and the stealthily sneaking staccato eighth notes in the orchestral introduction heighten the rather unsettled mood. After the vocal soloists make their entrance, the mode quickly changes to the placid major, but a brief return to minor before the end of the movement and the abbreviated ‘Osanna’ undercut the sense of wellbeing. This mixture of emotions is catapulted to the foreground in the Agnus Dei, in which menacing timpani figures, eventually augmented by trumpets, are juxtaposed with peaceful unison chorus. According to Griesinger, Haydn wanted the drums to sound ‘as if one heard the enemy approaching in the distance’. The evocative use of the timpani (or Pauken, in German) so captivated the audience that it prompted the work’s nickname, Paukenmesse. Haydn offers his own musical resolution to the conflict in the concluding ‘Dona nobis pacem’, where the unison chorus proclaims ‘pacem’ (‘peace’) and the trumpets sound.

Jennifer More Glagov


¹ James Webster, ‘Haydn’s sacred vocal music and the aesthetics of salvation’ in Haydn Studies, ed. W. Dean Sutcliffe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 35
² H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn, Chronicle and Works, Vol. IV (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), 124
³ Daniel Heartz, Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School, 1740–1780 (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 237
4 Ibid., 236
5 Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn, ed. David Wyn Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 289
6 Landon, IV, 124
7 Ibid., 125
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., 556.
10 Landon, IV, 120

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