Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, May 2011

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.

David Vernier, March 2011

This is such attractive, pleasant music—I have to partly agree with some contemporary critics who apparently “complained” that Haydn’s late Masses (including these two) were “too cheerful to be sacred”—but I’m not complaining! Haydn always found ways to enliven and enrich these cherished if well-worn texts, loosening the more formal and traditional constraints of the church service by means of sheer musical invention and, particularly here, with orchestration that can only be the work of this mature genius.

In the “Creation Mass” (Schöpfungsmesse), so-called because of its inclusion of a thematic reference to Haydn’s famous oratorio, the composer employs devices of structure and development associated with symphonic form, while offering plenty of appealing tunes, catchy rhythms, striking manipulations of tempo and mood, and compelling choral and solo movements (including a delightful, chromatic-themed fugue in the conclusion of the Gloria movement). The scoring is rich and often powerful, with a masterful attention to color—and even the key of B-flat is consciously chosen for its particular sonorous character, aided by the use of B-flat trumpets.

The Missa brevis performed here is Haydn’s 1805 revision of a score he composed as a teenager in 1749, among the earliest of his surviving compositions. More than 50 years later he revisited this work, appreciating in it a “certain youthful fire”—and proceeded to expand its orchestration in view of offering it for sale to his publishers along with some other works. Again, it would be difficult to find a more immediately appealing setting, from any century or composer, and the performers here, proven experts in this repertoire in their authoritative, highly recommended traversal of the complete Haydn Masses for Naxos, give listeners a guaranteed first-rate sampling from a genre that interested and fruitfully occupied Haydn throughout his long creative career.

Conductors Owen Burdick and Jane Glover give full measure to the special character of each work, relishing every rhythmic twist, melodic turn, and point of clever illustrative detail. This is exemplary Haydn—that it happens to be church music only serves to remind us that here is a composer who could not only make sacred music cheerful, but cheerful music sacred.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

We have reached volume 7 of Haydn’s Masses recorded over the past decade, and performed by the New York choir based in Trinity Church, Lower Manhattan. Although the booklets have never made clear, I would assume they are derived from an annual project to present these works in public performances. Neither has it been made clear as to whether the soloists are drawn from the choir, though one presumes that has been the case. Usually I have been more disposed to the quality of performance in their earlier recordings, but here in 2008, and under the guest conductor, Jane Glover, the choir move up a couple of rungs and turn in such a spirited account of the Creation Mass that it stands comparison with the many existing recordings. They belie the size of choir we see in the booklet photograph where they number twenty-two, but I guess they were rather surprised at Glover’s fast and exciting tempos, the opening of the Credo is highly energized and features some likeable solo singing, Nicole Palmer’s silvery voice being most welcome. The work earned its name for no other reason than it contains a quotation from Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation, and though he was seventy at the time, it abounds with the joy that Glover so superbly conveys, the final Amen full of choral exuberance. The release is completed with the 2001 unhurried performance of the Missa brevis conducted by J. Owen Burdick. A work of Haydn’s younger years revisited in 1805 in order to offer his publisher some ‘new’ scores. Even though he added to the work’s original length and orchestration for publication, it still amounts to little over ten minutes of normal running time. Comparing the two parts of the recording, the period instrument orchestra has followed trends and smoothed out some of those original pungent qualities that added much to the Missa Brevis.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group