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Len Mullenger:

Franz Joseph HAYDN
(1732 - 1809)
Missa in Anguistiis "Nelson Mass" Hob.XXXII:11 39'44"
Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo "Kleine Oregelmesse". Hob XXII:7 17'38"
Viktoria Loukianetz (sop); Gabriele Sime (contralto); Kurt Azesberger (ten); Robert Holzer (Bass): Hungarian Radio &Television Chorus Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia Béla Drahos
Recorded Budapest. June 17 - 20 1998 DDD Naxos 8.554416 [57'31"]

The two settings of the Latin Mass that make up this Naxos CD that uses entirely Eastern European performers are from different periods of Haydn's working life. The so-called "Nelson" Mass dates from 1798 when the composer was 66 and in the middle of an autumnal creative outburst that included The Seasons, The Creation and the three great late Masses of which this is one. The Kleine Orgelmesse dates from some 20 years earlier.

To call it by its Sunday- best name, the Nelson Mass is Missa in angustiis (Mass in time of anguish). Why Nelson? There are conflicting tales - one that the work was written at the time of the sea battle at Aboukir Bay, another that the great Admiral himself attended a performance in 1800. The name has stuck and that is how we all know it today.

The setting is popular - heard quite regularly both live and in recordings - and deservedly so. Despite being serious subject matter , this is not a sombre piece. Haydn's own pleasant and good-natured being comes through into the music that he scored for strings, timpani, organ and trumpets, with full chorus and four soloists.

Taken as a whole we have a performance that is good enough to listen to and enjoy but will not replace established recordings (like an especial long-term personal favourite on EMI from David Wilcocks). The soloists make a well-matched team when together, and individually are heard to good advantage (with a reservation about the vibrato the bass shows in his solo part in the Qui tollis. The Hungarian Radio Chorus is excellent with a fine balance and clear diction while the orchestral support is good. In a generally alert performance, there are times (notably in Qui Tollis and later in the Benedictus) when the tempo is allowed to drift and the passage becomes a dirge.

The much shorter Kleine Orgelmesse (Little Organ Mass) is a little charmer. Economically scored for violins and organ, soprano soloist (who is heard only in the penultimate Benedictus) and choir, its six sections last just over seventeen minutes. The opening Kyrie - an adagio - is followed by the merest snatch of plainchant to start the lively Gloria. The Credo with some fine sectional singing from the choir has an interpolated slow middle section, leading to the contrapuntal Sanctus. The longest section of the work is the Benedictus at just over six minutes. With a soaring soprano line, delightful support from the chamber organ and restrained strings with a final entry from the Chorus at Hosanna in excelsis it is an extract that could well find favour in a "Best of" CD selection. The final Agnus Dei dies away to close this most captivating of works. Beautifully sung throughout.

Decently recorded (being Naxos it is a new recording, of course), if you know the works on the disc you won't be let down, if you don't then they are well worth investigating.


Harry Downey



Harry Downey

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