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Classic FM, March 2010

During the final decade of his long composing career, Haydn’s creative genius went into overdrive with a series of hallowed masterpieces that sustain an unprecedented level of inspiration. These include The Creation, the Trumpet Concerto, the Op. 76 String Quartets and the glorious Mass and symphony featured here. Filmed live in October 2008 in the sumptuously photogenic surroundings of the famous Papal Basilica in Waldsassen, beautifully engineered and directed with exemplary musical sensitivity by the great Brian Large, this is a DVD that is both a visual and sonic treat./p>

Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons’s typically relaxed style—just after the start of the Symphony No. 88’s Finale he spontaneously exchanges the baton for simple hand gestures, so as to keep everything perfectly in scale—is a treat to watch, and the Bavarian musicians respond with playing that is articulate and affectionate. The soloists acquit themselves with distinction in the Harmoniemesse, and the chorus is both superbly disciplined and meticulously balanced. Under Jansons’s suavely expert conducting Hayndn’s music doesn’t quite exalt as it can, but this is still a most impressive disc.

George Hall
BBC Music Magazine, February 2010

Picture & Sound

A celebration of the recent Haydn anniversary, this concert devoted to his music was filmed in the splendid surround of the ornate Baroque Basilica at Waldsassen, Bavaria, in October 2008. The programme is cannily chosen, consisting of an early Haydn work: the one-movement Symphony in D, used as the overture to the comic opera Le pescatrici in 1770, and also recycled in his numbered symphonies Nos 53 and 62; a mature work in the shape of the 1787 Symphony No. 88 (once known as the Letter V from its position in a publisher’s catalogue); and his final major work, the 1802 Harmoniemesse, whose name derives from the German word ‘Harmonie’, referring to a wind band, to the prominence of wind contributions to its orchestral textures.

The Mass, with its grand and regularly celebratory liturgical manner, four soloists and chorus, seems particularly well suited to the venue and Brian Large’s filming is intelligent in its focus on whatever is happening musically in the score at any given moment.

The performance is of a very high standard. Working with one of the two major orchestras of which he is chief conductor, Mariss Jansons seeks out the humanity of Haydn’s ideas, their wit (one occasionally sees him, or the orchestral players, smiling as they perform) and their character (the drone bass effect in the minuet of Symphony No. 88 prefigures Bartók’s use of folk music). Soloists are excellent, including the two additional singers who get a few bars each in the Credo of the Mass.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, November 2009

Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) composed half a dozen masses in the last years of his life, the so-called “Harmony Mass” among his final creations in 1802. It is the centerpiece of this program of Haydn works by conductor Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

But before the Mass, we start out with the Sinfonia in D major, 1a:7, which the composer used several more times as an opera overture and as a movement for a couple of symphonies…Next, we get Haydn’s Symphony No. 88…The conductor brings out the work’s dance rhythms nicely…Then we come to the main attraction, the star of the show, the Mass in B flat major, known as the “Harmony Mass” for its large-scale scoring of wind instruments. It’s a grand combination of classical symphonic style and Baroque choral fugues of which Jansons makes the most. He persuades his soloists and choir to sing robustly yet expressively, projecting a delightfully grand-scale account of the activities. What’s more, you’ll even hear echoes of Mozart’s operas in here, making the Mass more than a mere accompaniment for a church service but a charming piece of stand-alone music.

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