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Mortimer H. Frank
Fanfare, September 2011

These performances were first released in a multi-disc set devoted to all of Haydn’s settings of the Mass. They make a revealing pairing, illustrating how far Haydn had come artistically from the Missa brevis (c.1774) to the towering Theresienmesse of 1799, one of the six settings of the text that crown his career and stand as miracles of Viennese Classicism. Both accounts here comprise “period” practice: lowered pitch (about A = 430), vibrato-free strings, and transparent choral and instrumental textures. The later work is, of course, the major attraction. As my favorite account of the score led by John Eliot Gardiner (for Phillips) is also “period” oriented, it is interesting to hear how Jane Glover’s stylish reading differs from it. For one thing the strings in her orchestra have a thinner, more nasal astringency than those in Gardiner’s ensemble. Then, too, Glover’s soprano, Nicole Palmer, imposes an occasionally unpleasant vibrato that is anomalous in period style. Gardiner’s soloists avoid this. Nevertheless, Glover’s reading remains attractive, particularly at its bargain price. Her tempos are well judged, her chorus and orchestra well disciplined, the overall performance conveying the music’s wide emotional range from touching delicacy to joyous affirmation. The earlier Missa brevis, a work of but 16 minutes, is probably less familiar. Although it has some lovely touches, most listeners should find it interesting mainly as a revelation of what was a far less daring and innovative composer. J. Owen Burdick’s direction is refreshingly unaffected and direct. The sound throughout both performances is first-rate.

Guy Aron
MusicWeb International, June 2011

This is the eighth and final volume in Naxos’ complete recording of the Haydn Masses. It contrasts a relatively early work, the Kleine Orgelsolomesse, with a masterpiece of Haydn’s maturity, the Theresienmesse. Both are very well performed by a period instruments orchestra with a capable choir and soloists. If you would like a taste of Haydn’s choral music this disc is thus an ideal introduction, especially at Naxos’s usual bargain price. If you already have a Theresienmesse on modern instruments, this one will provide an interesting contrast.

Haydn’s name is usually associated with instrumental music: 104-odd symphonies, numerous string quartets and piano sonatas, various concertos and divertimenti. But he actually wrote quite a lot of vocal music as well: operas, sacred oratorios, songs and cantatas, as well as music for liturgical performance. Haydn’s vocal music is just as varied as his instrumental output, and well worth exploring.

The Kleine Orgelsolomesse is so called to distinguish it from another mass setting with an organ solo, the much longer Grosse Orgelsolomesse or Missa in Honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae, H. XXII:4. The Kleine Orgelsolomesse is a brief work of around 16 minutes duration, lightly scored for chorus, solo soprano, two violins and continuo. It is charming and reminiscent of Baroque church sonatas. It’s very well performed by the Trinity forces and Rebel Orchestra.

The Theresienmesse is a much more substantial work written 25 years after the Kleine Orgelsolomesse. It is scored for full orchestra (including clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, timpani and organ), four soloists and chorus. H.C. Robbins Landon called the last six masses ‘symphonies for voices and orchestra using the mass text’. These works combine spiritual depth with the architectural qualities of the late symphonies, all of which had been written by now. It is called the Theresienmesse because it was thought to have been composed for Marie Therese, wife of Emperor Francis II. Actually it was commissioned by Nicholas II, Prince of Esterhazy, to celebrate the name day of his wife Marie Hermenegild. The Prince’s wife was an admirer of Haydn’s, and the genial mood of the work perhaps reflects the warmth of their friendship.

Haydn’s intermingling of choir, soloists and orchestra is quite masterly, and alternates polyphonic and homophonic choral writing. The different sections of the text are given a variety of feeling that encompasses serenity, foreboding, and celebration. His trademark dramatic pauses and rhythmic drive are much in evidence, combined with some adventurous chromatic harmonies. This performance features generally brisk tempos, not much vibrato on the strings, and hard sticks on the timpani. Jane Glover’s direction keeps things moving along; apart from a rather squally entry from the alto, the soloists acquit themselves well. None has a really big voice, but this suits the clean and unsentimental approach. The only criticism that could be made is that the dynamic nature of the direction leaves it a little lacking in charm. Within its parameters, however, this is a very assured performance.

The acoustic of Trinity Church is quite lively; chords that cut off abruptly take a few seconds to die away, which suits this repertoire. The recording is clear, with none of the muddiness that performances in reverberant venues can acquire.

David Hurwitz, May 2011

This recording, the last entry in Naxos’ excellent traversal of Haydn’s Masses with New York’s Trinity Choir and Rebel Baroque Orchestra, already has received just acclaim as part of the label’s comprehensive boxed collection. The program affectingly and effectively combines the minimally scored and lesser-known “Small organ solo Mass” with the grand and oft-performed Theresienmesse, which employs a quartet of soloists as only Haydn can—the writing is exquisite (a clear reminder of the thing-or-two Mozart earlier learned from the elder master). No 18th-century composer wrote with a more developed sense of sonority than Haydn, nor, when the occasion called for it (which was most of the time), with a more perfectly honed dramatic skill, whether in church music or opera or chamber works. Yes, this is church music, but it’s also unfailingly entertaining, certainly a plus for keeping a congregation happily in their seats!

As we have come to expect, J. Owen Burdick and his first-rate choir and orchestra capture both the functional, liturgical idiom and the musical/artistic aspects of these works with both enthusiasm and a respect for the particulars of Haydn’s scoring—that unique, ingratiating “sonority”. The boxed set is a bargain and well worth owning; but if you want only a representative recording from the collection, this one is a top choice.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2011

We come to the eighth and final volume of the Haydn Masses recorded by New York’s Trinity Choir and released on the Naxos label. Stylistically it contains two very different approaches, the Trinity Church’s long-standing director of music, Owen Burdick, directing the short Kleine Orgelsolomesse in the traditional mode that has held sway for so long. His tempos unhurried, the music shaped with much affection, and, as I have previously commented, those early recordings—this one dating from 2004—have an excellent solo soprano in Ann Hoyt. We then move to the English guest conductor, Jane Glover, who took with her the many changes that have taken place in recent years to the presentation of Baroque music in the UK .Tempos are vibrantly fast, sparks almost flying off the brilliance of the Gloria. Drama abounds, Glover feeling for the symphonic nature of the writing as she highlights the contribution of trumpets and timpani. It also enjoys a very good quartet of soloists, Nicole Palmer a fine and powerful soprano, and it is those voices that add much to the vibrancy of the final Dona nobis pacem. Glover equally highlights the pungency of the scoring, drawing from the sopranos so much impact. Of course the catalogue already contains fine accounts from Richard Hickox and John Eliot Gardiner, but this one, without a star-studded cast, has a fresh and eager quality that you will much enjoy. The recording quality matches the two different performances.

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