Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2. Conclusion: Gloria
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3 Part 1: Credo. Credo in unum Deum
Movement 3 Part 2: Credo. Et incarnatus est
Movement 3 Part 3: Credo. Et resurrexit tertia die
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6 Part 1: Agnus Dei. Agnus Dei
Movement 6 Part 2: Agnus Dei. Dona nobis pacem
Some three dozen Masses by Haydn survive. He described himself as a methodical copyist and indeed his manuscripts are neat and unusually free of errors. The Mass for St Ursula is a substantial work which well represents Haydn’s late style, in which large-scale unity is achieved through the subtle transformation and recall of thematic material between the movements. The scoring is for strings (without violas), two trumpets and timpani, with the lower three vocal parts doubled, as was customary at the time, by trombones.
The ‘Kyrie’ is optimistic, with soloists and chorus answering one another, pinned together by splendidly ornate violin lines. The ‘Gloria’ is one of Haydn’s finest; a cheerful, unison choral opening sets a triumphant tone, against which the violins whirl in elegant flurries of notes. In the middle section Haydn makes use of a favourite colour, that of muted violins, adding melodic inflections and harmonic twists which are reminiscent of writing that was to be produced by Mendelssohn twenty years later: a stylish, sighing motif is skilfully developed. The highlight of the movement is a compelling closing fugue, ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’, which finds Haydn at his most uplifting and thrilling.
The ‘Credo’ too opens confidently, with the trumpets eventually provided with an uncommon role, that of representing the descent from heaven. In the intimate middle section, ‘Et incarnatus est’, sighing muted violins accompany the solo quartet, with trumpets and timpani entering to indicate the nails of the crucifixion: the chromatic ending of ‘et sepultus est’ is another fine touch before a triumphant resurrection and an ecstatic ‘Amen’.
Haydn opens the ‘Sanctus’ solemnly and, unusually, quietly, reserving joyfulness instead for the ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and a brief ‘Osanna’. Unusual too is the scoring of the gentle ‘Benedictus’, where the conventional late-eighteenth-century scoring usually involves all four solo voices: Haydn writes for the soprano alone, punctuated occasionally by the chorus. An orchestral motif (first gently introduced at 0'53") increases in prominence during the movement.
The ‘Agnus Dei’ again makes use of the colour of muted violins, who introduce another Mendelssohnian orchestral motif (three chromatically rising notes followed by a descending fifth) which gently permeates the slow opening section, reaching its development in the extrovert, closing allegro molto. Haydn’s ‘Dona nobis pacem’ is jubilant, though he leaves one final, surprise gesture for the end of this splendid Mass setting.
from notes by Robert King © 2005