Haydn: Mass in E flat, Hob. XXII:4 (Grosse Orgelmesse); Mass in C, Hob. XXII:8 (Missa cellensis)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Mass in E flat, Hob. XXII:4 (Grosse Orgelmesse); Mass in C, Hob. XXII:8 (Missa cellensis)
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano), Louise Winter (mezzo-soprano), Mark Padmore (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (bass), Ian Watson (organ); Collegium Musicum 90/Richard Hickox
This final instalment in Richard Hickox’s survey of Haydn Masses juxtaposes two contrasting works that are still too little known: the Great Organ Mass (c1769), so called because of its decorative organ solos and colouring by the plangent sonority of cors anglais; and the ceremonial C major Missa cellensis of 1782, whose bold rhetoric and symphonic inclinations often prefigure the six great Masses of Haydn’s old age.


As ever, Hickox chooses lively yet never hectic tempi, secures clean choral and orchestral textures and strikes a happy balance between dancing energy and due liturgical gravity. The choir is fresh-toned and responsive; and in numbers such as the idyllic Benedictus of the Organ Mass the solo quartet, topped by the soaring soprano of Susan Gritton, sings with a chamber-musical grace and refinement. Other highlights in this gentlest and most rarefied of Haydn’s Masses include the musing, pastoral Kyrie and the plaintive ‘Et incarnatus’, sung with quiet intensity and perfect control by Mark Padmore. Hickox and his forces are no less vivid in the later Mass: in, say, the exhilarating triple-time swing of the Kyrie (just the sort of movement frowned on by Haydn’s more po-faced contemporaries), the powerful F minor ‘Qui tollis’, or the syncopated ‘Dona nobis’ fugue, excitingly built to its climax. Among the sparse competition there is a good, if rough-edged, version of the Organ Mass from Simon Preston (L’Oiseau-Lyre), and a vigorous, sometimes over-driven one, likewise of late Seventies vintage, of the Missa cellensis from George Guest (Decca). This new recording is both more polished and more attentive to the individual colour and character of these Masses, and becomes a clear first choice. Richard Wigmore