Haydn: Missa in tempore belli, Hob. XXII:9; Salve regina in G minor

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LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Missa in tempore belli, Hob. XXII:9; Salve regina in G minor
PERFORMER: Dorothea Röschmann (soprano), Elisabeth von Magnus (mezzo-soprano), Herbert Lippert (tenor), Oliver Widmer (baritone)Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-13146-2
There is nothing ordinary about any of the six large-scale Masses Haydn wrote towards the end of his life, but the Mass in Time of War (Haydn’s own title, not a nickname) is especially remarkable in its integration of the sounds of war (trumpet fanfares, menacing drumrolls) into the conventional structure of the Latin Mass. At the time of its composition in 1796, Austrian territory was under threat of invasion by Napoleon; Haydn’s urgent setting of the ‘Dona nobis pacem’, in particular, provides an obvious plea for peace, and elsewhere the sudden mood swings between major and minor are also deeply unsettling. Harnoncourt’s first recording of a Haydn Mass is well-thought-out, his orchestra contributing plenty of instrumental colour (though with the odd sour note in the woodwind). He pays a great deal of attention to dynamics and accentuation; occasionally this seems a bit overdone, as in the stabbing string articulation in the Crucifixus. His subtle acceleration through the final chorus is surprising but effective. Pick of the soloists is the young German, Dorothea Röschmann, who negotiates the florid lines of the Kyrie effortlessly. The intimate Salve regina in G minor, for four soloists, strings and organ, proves a rather serious coupling. Stephen Maddock