John Eliot Gardiner

Haydn: 6 Great Masses

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Haydn's late masses are as good as it gets for spiritual greatness in Catholic Austria in the early years of the nineteenth century. Mozart certainly has his moments, but he didn't finish his best spiritual works, and while there's no denying the greatness of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, his only earlier Mass is hardly in the same class as Haydn's late, great masses. Catholic Austrian as he was, Haydn was still a man of great soul and deep spirit, and his late, great mass are the most sublime spiritual works after Bach. Not that you'd know it from these recordings by John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. Gardiner is exciting but too fast, brilliant but superficial, colorful but shallow. The solo singers are superb, the choral singing is superlative, the orchestral playing is alive and vibrant. Gardiner knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. If what you want is Haydn's late masses clean, clear, and colorful, this is it. If you want Haydn with spiritual greatness intact, try Hickox, or better yet, Guest and Willcocks. Like Gardiner's interpretations, Philips sound is clean, clear, and colorful but superficial.

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