Haydn: Missa Cellensis

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Missa Cellensis
PERFORMER: Lydia Teuscher (soprano), Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo-soprano), Markus Schäfer (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass); Anima Eterna/Jos van Immerseel
CATALOGUE NO: 83.247

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The origins of the earliest of Haydn’s large-scale Masses, which predates his final, great sequence in the genre by 30 years, remain obscure. An often-quoted connection with St Cecilia is non-existent; instead, the work was probably composed (like its smaller successor, known by the same title) in relation to the Austrian pilgrimage church of Mariazell, which still retains a miraculous wooden image of the Virgin Mary in a ‘cella’ or chapel. Haydn’s employers, the Esterházy family, were among the church’s benefactors.

But where and when it was first performed we just don’t know. Nor do we know its exact composition date. It appears in Haydn’s own catalogue for 1766, yet his own manuscript seems to have been expanded later.

What matters most is the music, and it has to be said that the piece falls short of the great achievements of the composer’s final phase; some of it is on the pedestrian side, and its sense of unity is patchy. But the best is rich and memorable, and much is successfully delivered in this interpretation, notably in terms of clean choral tone and characterful period-instrument playing.

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But the soloists are a mixed bunch, with a neat and delicate soprano, a solid mezzo, an uneven bass and a tenor who is a liability. Jos van Immerseel motivates the performance in an appropriate acoustic. But you may be better off with Simon Preston’s version on L’Oiseau Lyre, including four Haydn Masses. George Hall