Haydn: Nelson Mass

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ALBUM TITLE: Haydn: Nelson Mass
WORKS: Nelson Mass
PERFORMER: Jonty Ward (trble), Hugh Cutting (alto), Nick Pritchard (tenor), Tom Edwards (bass); Choir of New College Oxford/Edward Higginbottom; New Century Baroque


Haydn’s magnificent Missa in Angustiis of 1798 – the so-called ‘Nelson Mass’, composed at the height of the Napoleonic Wars – has come in for some dramatic recordings. This latest account by the forces of New College, Oxford, is less punchy, more liturgical than some, but scarcely less intent in purpose.

Instead of the usual operatic soloist in the florid solo soprano passages, we have a secure and expressive boy treble in Jonty Ward, while the Choir of New College sings with its usual focus. Uniquely, Edward Higginbottom interposes Haydn’s stirring motet Insanae et vanae curae (‘Deluded and vain cares assault the mind’) as an Offertory between the Credo and Sanctus – where its D minor-major tonality and alternations of storminess and calm fit in effectively with the ambiguous mood-swings of the Mass as a whole.

The period strings of New Century Baroque number around 20, with strings occasionally swallowed up by trumpets and choir in the resonant church acoustic.


Bayan Northcott