Haydn: Schöpfungsmesse; Missa ‘Rorate coeli desuper’; Gloria from Schöpfungsmesse (alternative version)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Schöpfungsmesse; Missa ‘Rorate coeli desuper’; Gloria from Schöpfungsmesse (alternative version)
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano), Pamela Helen Stephen (mezzo-soprano), Mark Padmore (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (baritone); Collegium Musicum 90/ Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0599
The Schöpfungsmesse (Creation Mass) was the fifth of the six great Masses that the elderly Haydn composed between 1796 and 1802 and which, taken together, comprise one of the crowning glories of his oeuvre. It got its ‘Creation Mass’ nickname because Haydn quoted eight bars from his celebrated Creation oratorio in the Gloria, part of a minor yet elaborate musical joke that so displeased the Empress Marie Therese that she insisted Haydn recompose the offending passage for her copy.

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Joke aside, the Schöpfungsmesse is characterised by Haydn’s brilliant interweavings of brass-led grandeur, choral fervour and the soloists’ lovely, rapt serenity – the latter most notable in the Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Richard Hickox and his team offer a spellbinding performance that does full justice to Haydn’s dramatic affirmations of faith.

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Unfortunately, the CD’s supplementary items are a let-down. The ‘alternative’, Marie Therese-approved Gloria differs from the original only in ten seconds of its 11 minutes, while the Missa ‘Rorate coeli desuper’ may be among Haydn’s juvenilia or may not even be by him at all. Graham Lock