Michael Haydn: Schäfer Kantate; Missa pro defunctis

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COMPOSERS: Michael Haydn
LABELS: Franz Liszt Chorus
WORKS: Schäfer Kantate; Missa pro defunctis
PERFORMER: Franz Liszt Chorus &Orchestra/Peter Scholcz
CATALOGUE NO: LFC-I-Õ98 (distr. tel +31 297 263044)
As its title suggests, this magnificent hitherto unrecorded Mass for soloists, two choirs and orchestra seems to have been composed in August 1786 for Spain, but there are no contemporary Spanish copies of the work, the date of which is curiously close to the commission issued from Cádiz to Joseph Haydn for The Seven Last Words. The Michael Haydn remained unpublished until 1966, when Charles Sherman edited it for the Haydn-Mozart Presse (Universal Edition). I first heard it live in Lille Cathedral in 1991 and was deeply impressed, especially by the fugues.

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This is a dedicated performance in a resonant church in Hungary. The soloists and choir sing Latin in an extremely precise fashion, reminding us that Latin was Hungary’s official language during a large part of the 18th century. The recording is excellent, giving us a great sense of space. This is undoubtedly a milestone among CDs of 18th-century music.

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The other Michael Haydn is less exalted. The Requiem Mass (a kind of draft score) is striking, but the Cantata (1787) is more conventional, and the soloists mediocre. HC Robbins Landon