Haydn: Mass in B flat (Theresa Mass); Mass in D minor (Nelson Mass)

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WORKS: Mass in B flat (Theresa Mass); Mass in D minor (Nelson Mass)
PERFORMER: Ann Monoyios (soprano), Svetlana Serdar (alto), Wolfgang Bünten (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass); Tölz Boys Choir, Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
Bruno Weil’s exploration of Haydn’s sacred vocal music has reached the Nelson and Theresa Masses, third and fourth respectively in the series of six magnificent Masses that the elderly Haydn composed between 1796 and 1802. The Nelson is the more distinctive work, reflecting the baleful effect of the Napoleonic Wars in the Kyrie’s dark foreboding and in a turbulent Benedictus, with its stabbing fanfares of martial trumpets. The Theresa, though less striking, has its fair share of felicities, such as the tender ‘Gratias’ and the lovely operatic ensemble writing of the Benedictus.


Weil, backed by a fine team of soloists, brings a characteristic vivacity to these performances and his liking for fast-moving tempos imparts a heady exhilaration to the music, though at the cost of undermining Haydn’s more solemn and serene moments. Richard Hickox on Chandos (Theresa) and Trevor Pinnock on Archiv (Nelson) are certainly more attuned to the music’s capacity for gravitas and grandeur, yet Weil’s racing jubilation does seem to capture the feeling, famously described by Haydn, of joy leaping in his heart at the thought of God. Graham Lock