Notes and Editorial Reviews
Is it or isn’t it? On the parts found by Friedrich Hägele in 2000 at the Benedictine Abbey in Ottobeuren, Austria, the Missa solemnis given its premiere recording here is attributed—as explained by conductor Mario Schwarz’s booklet notes—to Joseph Haiden, and “Haiden” is a spelling that earlier generations of Haydn’s family used. It’s easy to hear the style of this work as that of Franz Joseph Haydn, though there are some anomalies. One of those, the lack of timpani, was corrected when compared to another set of the same music in the Statni oblasi library in Litomerice, Hungary (there attributed, dubiously, to Mozart), which does include timpani (in Prague, it’s attributed to Vaclav Pichl). As Schwarz points out, the Sanctus is
unusually brief compared to other Haydn masses, but that may or may not mean anything. Whoever wrote this 45-minute work, it’s ingratiatingly tuneful and elegantly shaped.
The other work here is also a premiere recording, of a two-movement work by Franz Joseph’s younger brother Johann Michael Haydn. The first movement, “Perfice gressus meos,” is for solo soprano, while the second, “Dominus firmamentum,” is for choir. It’s quite a showcase for the soprano, both in length (the first movement is three times the duration of the second) and virtuoso writing, although ultimately the impression it leaves is more of craft than inspiration.
The choir’s tuning is occasionally a bit imprecise at the top end. Before careful perusal of the booklet, I assumed this could be blamed on boy sopranos, but the photo of the choir shows 15 singers, nine of whom look like women, so perhaps it’s just female sopranos singing with “white” tone, including one who gets the solo in “Qui tollis peccata mundi” instead of featured solo soprano Judith Graf. Graf’s voice sometimes sounds as if it’s about to fly off the tracks in the florid passages of “Quoniam tu solus Sanctus,” but she sounds more comfortable elsewhere and absolutely shines in “Perfice gressus meos.” Alto soloist Ingrid Alexandre is a tad turgid but more than adequate. The male soloists are not given much to sing and handle their parts well enough. The modern-instrument accompaniment is nicely scaled. The recording is from the St. Laurenzenkirche, the choir’s home turf, and the engineering allows the acoustic halo that a reverberant church imparts, but without letting things get too indistinct. Certainly, nothing goes so far amiss in any department as to impede a recommendation of this disc while it’s the only one of this repertoire, which will be of obvious interest to any Haydn connoisseurs and choral music fans.
Steve Holtje, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Perfice gressus meos by Michael Haydn
St. Gallen Collegium Musicum
Written: by 1794; Austria
Missa solemnis by Franz Joseph Haydn
Southwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Notes: This mass may not be by Haydn; it was signed by "Jos. Haiden" and some scholars have also put Mozart up as the likely composer.
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Kyrie eleison
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Gloria in excelsis Deo
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Qui tollis peccata mundi
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Quoniam tu solus Sanctus
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Cum Sancto Spiritu
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Credo in unum Deum
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Et incarnatus est
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Et resurrexit
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Sanctus
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Benedictus
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Agnus Dei
Mass in B flat major, "Missa Soleminis": Dona nobis pacem
Perfice gressus meos: Dominus firmamentum
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