Haydn: Harmony Mass

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: BR Klassik
WORKS: Sinfonia in D; Symphony No. 88 in G; Mass in B flat (Harmoniemesse)
PERFORMER: Malin Hartelius (soprano), Judith Schmid (mezzo-soprano), Christian Elsner (tenor), Franz-Josef Selig (bass); Bavarian Radio Chorus & SO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 403571900103 (NTSC system; DTS Surround; 16:9 picture format)

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A celebration of the recent Haydn anniversary, this concert devoted to his music was filmed in the splendid surround of the ornate Baroque Basilica at Waldsassen, Bavaria, in October 2008.

The programme is cannily chosen, consisting of an early Haydn work: the one-movement Symphony in D, used as the overture to the comic opera Le pescatrici in 1770, and also recycled in his numbered symphonies Nos 53 and 62; a mature work in the shape of the 1787 Symphony No. 88 (once known as the Letter V from its position in a publisher’s catalogue); and his final major work, the 1802 Harmoniemesse, whose name derives from the German word ‘Harmonie’, referring to a wind band, due to the prominence of wind contributions to its orchestral textures. 

The Mass, with its grand and regularly celebratory liturgical manner, four soloists and chorus, seems particularly well suited to the venue and Brian Large’s filming is intelligent in its focus on whatever is happening musically in the score at any given moment. 

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The performance is of a very high standard. Working with one of the two major orchestras of which he is chief conductor, Mariss Jansons seeks out the humanity of Haydn’s ideas, their wit (one occasionally sees him, or the orchestral players, smiling as they perform) and their character (the drone bass effect in the minuet of Symphony No. 88 prefigures Bartók’s use of folk music). Soloists are excellent, including the two additional singers who get a few bars each in the Credo of the Mass. George Hall