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Greg Keane
Limelight, November 2010

The excellent sleeve note on this CD says Haydn’s approach to religion was never gloomy or penitential but rather “cheerful reconciled and trusting”. Much of his church music, admittedly, lacks any more than a hint of retrospection, spirituality or light and shade. One always has the impression that in Haydn’s take on Catholicism a good time was had by all. Even the supposedly darker Missa in tempore belli, nicknamed the “Timpani Mass”, really becomes ominous only with the menacing timpani figures in the Agnus Dei depicting Napoleon’s army besieging south-east Austria. Otherwise, only the unsettled minor key mood of the Benedictus undermines the otherwise joyful mood. Interestingly, the man whom Beethoven a few years later considered (initially at least) to be a liberator was viewed by the more conventional Haydn as a threat to civilisation. That said, performances of this calibre deserve an unreserved welcome. These two works were composed 24 years apart, the Mariazellermesse in 1782 as a celebration of the ennoblement of a prominent Catholic, a retired army officer who organised Marian pilgrimages. Owen Burdick and his forces (the Trinity Choir refers to the Trinity Episcopal Church in Wall Street, Manhattan, not Trinity College, Cambridge) and REBEL Baroque orchestra are agile and idiomatic in this music while, among the soloists, the men are adequate but the real star in both masses is Ann Hoyt, who has the thrilling, ringing timbre of a boy soprano.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2010

We have reached the fourth volume in the complete cycle of Haydn masses. It comes not, as one would expect,  from Europe, but from a choir based at Trinity Church on New York’s Wall Street. The Mariazellermesse is dated 1782, placing it at the end of Haydn’s gradual development as a composer of sacred music, his new employer’s lack of interest in church compositions turning Haydn towards secular vocal music. Its name could have been the result of a commission from Anton Liebe de Kreutzer, a member of the brotherhood responsible for services in honour of the Mariazell pilgrimages. In every respect it is a conventional score, the choir having some bold and outgoing sections. Now with Prince Anton’s death, it was another lover of music, Nicolaus II, who took his place, and as he favoured urban life, Haydn could now spend the remainder of his time in Vienna. Commissioned to write a new mass each year to mark the nameday of Nicolaus’s wife, it brought the six great scores from 1796 to 1809, including the Paukenmesse, the name referring to the prominent use of timpani. It is obvious that Haydn could call on substantial forces in Vienna, bringing a weighty feeling to the whole score, the complex writing quite demanding on the choir, particularly for the high soprano scoring. The finale, with hammering timpani, is one of Haydn’s most exhilarating moments. Throughout the choir has sung lustily; the soloists well versed in the style, and if the orchestra’s period credentials are rather masked by reverberation, they give a committed accompaniment. Already released as part of a boxed set of the complete masses, the performances make a reliable and inexpensive addition to your Haydn library.

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