These recordings are drawn from the complete Haydn mass cycle released by New York's Trinity Choir and the Rebel Baroque Orchestra (the latter named for French Baroque composer Jean-Féry Rebel, not for the Confederate States of America). The pairing has gained acclaim for small-group, historical-instrument performances of Baroque and Classical-era works intended to meet those by European ensembles on their own ground. The two masses were recorded several years apart, with different conductors and soloists, but the pairing must have proved irresistible to Naxos compilers for a single disc: the Missa Brevis, Hob. 22/1, of 1749 or 1750 is Haydn's first definitely attributable work aside from student exercises, while the Mass in B flat major, Hob. 22/14, "Harmoniemesse," would be his last. He later completed two movements of the String Quartet, Op. 103, and then called it quits. The scope of the creative career framed by these two works carries a kind of fascination in itself, and the Missa Brevis, of which Haydn himself spoke fondly in later life, is not recorded so often. Haydn was no child prodigy like Mozart, but his originality shows through at several places in this sunny, mostly simple work. Consider the curiously wandering, mysterious quality of the Incarnatus and Crucifixus sections, so unlike anything else Haydn might have been hearing at the time. The "Harmoniemesse," or Wind Band Mass, was written for a full complement of winds and brasses, and it is a large piece that gives no hint of its composer's growing exhaustion. The martial conception of the Dona nobis pacem, very much reflective of a Europe in the grip of global war, is but one of many masterstrokes, and conductor Jane Glover forges a crisp choral sound, supported by fine soloists (alto Kirsten Sollek is a standout), that cuts through the brass-heavy orchestral sound. The forces, in fact, sound quite different under Glover and project founder J. Owen Burdick, although it is not clear how much this is due to the sheer diversity of the two works involved. At any rate, for those not investing in the entire set, this is a historically oriented American Haydn recording that can stand with European examples. Trinity Church is underrated as a recording venue; it is spacious and sonorous, but sound does not get lost there. The booklet is in English and German.
Haydn: Masses, Vol. 6
Trinity Church Choir, New York City
Haydn: Masses, Vol. 6 Review
by James Manheim