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Missa solemnis 'Harmoniemesse', Hob XXII:14
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Haydn: Harmoniemesse & Little Organ Mass' (CDH55208)
Haydn: Harmoniemesse & Little Organ Mass
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55208  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2 Part 1: Gloria
Movement 2 Part 2: Gratias agimus
Movement 2 Part 3: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
Movement 3 Part 1: Credo
Movement 3 Part 2: Et incarnatus est
Movement 3 Part 3: Et resurrexit
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6 Part 1: Agnus Dei
Movement 6 Part 2: Dona nobis pacem

Missa solemnis 'Harmoniemesse', Hob XXII:14
The decades that separate the Missa Sancti Joannis de Deo and the Harmoniemesse brought great change to Austrian church music. Musical life was becoming increasingly centred on the concert hall and the opera house, and few composers in the intellectual mainstream around 1800 can have remained unaffected by the rationalist philosophies of the Enlightenment. Haydn became a freemason in the 1780s, but he seems to have retained his simple faith throughout his life. And Haydn’s sequence of six late Masses are virtually the last works in the liturgical tradition that are also masterpieces in the mainstream of Western music. Nevertheless, Haydn, like other Austrian musicians, was profoundly affected by successive reforms of church music during his career. The empress Maria Theresa limited the use of trumpets and timpani in the Mass during the 1750s. More serious, in 1784 Joseph II, as part of a wide-ranging attempt to reform the church according to his Enlightenment ideas, decreed that instrumental ensembles were only to be allowed in Masses on Sundays and Feast days. As a result, Mozart wrote no Masses between his unfinished C minor of 1782/3 and the Requiem of 1791, while Haydn wrote none between the Missa Cellensis of 1782 and the Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida of 1796. By then Joseph’s decree had been revoked by his successor Leopold II, and the climate was once again favourable to elaborate concerted Masses.

Haydn’s late Masses were written for successive celebrations of the name day, 8 September, of Maria Hermenegild, the wife of his employer Prince Nicolaus Esterházy; they were performed under Haydn’s direction in the Bergkirche at Eisenstadt. The Harmoniemesse is the last of the series, and is his last completed work of any size. It evidently cost the aged composer a great deal of effort, for on 14 July 1802 he wrote to Prince Esterházy that he was ‘labouring wearily on the new Mass’. For Princess Esterházy’s name-day in 1803 he was not pressed to compose another Mass, and his Stabat mater of 1767 was given instead. Nevertheless, the Harmoniemesse is a work of great grandeur and elaboration, and there is no sign that the composer’s powers were in decline. The work was given the title ‘wind-band mass’ not because it needs more wind instruments than the rest of his late Masses – only a flute is added to the clarinets, oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets – but because they are used in an unusually prominent way. We are accustomed to prominent wind solos in Mozart, but Haydn was a generation older, and retained the spare orchestral writing of his youth for much of his career, with the wind doubling or just reinforcing the strings. It was not until Haydn became accustomed to writing for large orchestras during his visit to London in the 1790s that passages such as the clarinet solo at the opening of the ‘Et incarnatus’ became common in his music.

If Haydn tended to be conservative in his orchestration, he led the way in matters of structure. Until Joseph II’s reforms halted the production of orchestral Masses in 1784 Austrian composers still laid out their large-scale works in the Baroque manner, dividing the sections into a string of separate choruses and arias. When the production of figuraliter Masses resumed under Leopold the old ‘cantata’ structure was felt to be hopelessly old-fashioned, and new models were looked for. Haydn’s solution was to divide the sections into fewer, longer movements, and to organize them using structural devices borrowed from the Classical symphony and the concerto. Thus the Kyrie of the Harmoniemesse is set as one mighty slow movement, incorporating solo and chorus sections, while the Gloria and Credo are each divided into three movements – as late as 1782 Mozart had divided the Gloria of his C minor Mass into no fewer than eight movements. Martin Chusid has even proposed that the entire work should be thought of as the equivalent of three symphonies, the first consisting of the Kyrie and the Gloria, the second the Credo, and the third the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. It is perhaps significant that Haydn did not write any more conventional symphonies after his return from London in 1795, for the annual series of Masses for Princess Esterházy provided him with a larger canvas for his symphonic ideas. Haydn’s late works provided the model for the subsequent development of the Viennese Mass in the hands of Hummel, Beethoven and Schubert, but by then church music had been relegated to the periphery of Austrian musical life.

from notes by Peter Holman © 1991

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Details for CDA66508 track 15
Movement 5: Benedictus
Recording date
27 June 1991
Recording venue
Winchester Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: Harmoniemesse & Little Organ Mass (CDA66508)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: October 1991
    Deletion date: August 2004
    Superseded by CDH55208
  2. Haydn: Harmoniemesse & Little Organ Mass (CDH55208)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: September 2005
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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