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Haydn: Masses / Guest, Preston

Release Date: 09/09/1998 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 458376  
Composer:  Franz Joseph HaydnMichael Haydn
Performer:  Helen WattsRobert TearJennifer SmithBenjamin Luxon,   ... 
Conductor:  George GuestSimon Preston
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St John's College ChoirAcademy of St. Martin in the FieldsAcademy of Ancient Music,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  2 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The review of the recording by St John's College Choir, Cambridge under George Guest for Argo began with the plain statement "This is a winner". It is indeed... [T]he music is strong enough for...the full London Symphony Chorus with orchestral strength to match. In practice, however, subtlety is lost when compared with a small choir, especially one with which, in this case, the conductor, George Guest, is on thoroughly intimate terms, and a small band that lacks nothing in body nor artistry (the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields)... Notice, for example, how Guest's choir modifies its dynamic for "in nomine Domini" (from bar 22 of the Benedictus) and, even more sensitive, at the choral entries interspersed with solo Read more soprano phrases of "benedictus qui venit" from bar 106 of the same movement, where the choral forte is lightened to match a single solo voice... [T]he real advantage of the Cambridge performance is in the greater subtlety of interpretation, of more nuance in the singing and playing of phrases.

-- Gramophone [5/1981, reviewing the LP release of Heiligmesse, Argo 5500]


The Missa Cellensis (1782) which Haydn wrote for performance at Mariazell is twice as long and I am tempted to say twice as good. Robbins Landon has called it " the most perfect large-scale work" Haydn achieved in the late seventies and early eighties, a period when his symphonies were arguably in decline. The Kyrie is itself symphonic and anticipates the late Masses in having a slow introduction leading into a vigorous Allegro with active violin parts and the four soloists contrasted with the chorus. There is a fine energy at the end of the Gloria and -a„ deeply felt tenor solo for the "et incarnatus est" (beautifully sung by Robert Tear)... [T]he singing and orchestral playing [are] first rate... An enjoyable record.

-- Gramophone [10/1978, reviewing the LP release of Missa Cellensis, Argo 867]


This record completes Argo's long-term venture of recording all the late Haydn masses, and they are to be congratulated on making this magnificent but all-too-little known music available. In every case the recordings have been made in Cambridge, either with the King's College Choir under David Willcocks or with the one at St John's under George Guest. No doubt the St John's choir is as big as the one at Eisenstadt for which Haydn wrote, but there is sometimes a tendency for choral detail to be covered by the violins. Also the boys sound a little breathy here and there. But their innocent quality is attractive, and the singing in general is very good. The balance may favour the orchestra, but it allows us to hear a great deal of beautifully played instrumental detail, and as Haydn was wonderfully inventive over his accompaniments in his last years, there is little reason to complain. The soloists are all good, and combine beautifully in the "Benedictus", a serenely lovely movement. There are not many chances of individual display, but in the "Incarnatus est" Robert Tear makes his solo one of the most memorable moments in the performance.

I cannot stress too strongly that this is magnificent music. Even the "Kyrie" is astonishingly powerful and dramatic, with high trumpet parts adding to the excitement. The mass dates from 1801, and only the Harmoniemesse is later. It is known as the Creation Mass because Haydn starts the "Qui tollis peccata mundi" in the Gloria with a brief quotation from his famous oratorio. I suppose someone has an explanation for this, and perhaps the sleeve-note (which I have not seen) will reveal all. I can only report my own mystification, and the fact that the quotation comes from the duet for Adam and Eve near the end of The Creation. The words there are "Die tauende Morgen", and my ancient vocal score translates them charmingly if not very poetically: "The dew-dripping morn,/0 how she quickens all!". This does not seem to have much to do with taking away the sins of the world. In both works Haydn introduces his theme on the horns and then the voice repeats it; in the mass be then forgets all about it.

This is the only one of the late masses that Barenreiter have not yet published in their excellent though rather expensive edition, but I understand that a miniature and a vocal score will be available soon. May I repeat that these late Haydn masses contain some of his greatest music. The Creation Mass is well up to standard; George Guest has secured a fine performance, and the sound falls agreeably on the ears. Recommended.

-- Gramophone [3/1969, reviewing the LP release of Schöpfungsmesse, Argo 598]
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Works on This Recording

Missa Cellensis, H 22 no 8 "Mariazellermesse" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Helen Watts (Contralto (Female alto)), Robert Tear (Tenor), Jennifer Smith (Soprano),
Benjamin Luxon (Bass)
Conductor:  George Guest
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St John's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1977 
Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida, H 22 no 10 "Heiligmesse" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  April Cantelo (Soprano), Christopher Keyte (Bass), Shirley Minty (Mezzo soprano),
Ian Partridge (Tenor)
Conductor:  George Guest
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St John's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967-9 
Mass in B flat major, H 22 no 13 "Schöpfungmesse" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  April Cantelo (Soprano), Forbes Robinson (Bass), Robert Tear (Tenor),
Helen Watts (Contralto (Female alto))
Conductor:  George Guest
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St John's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967-9 
Ave Regina by Michael Haydn
Conductor:  George Guest
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge St John's College Choir,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Classical 
Written: Salzburg, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967-9 
Missa Rorate coeli desuper, H 22 no 3 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Simon Preston
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music,  Oxford Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: Austria 
Date of Recording: 1979 

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