Monday, March 28, 2016

Haydn's late masses, to my ear, approach Beethoven


How close does Haydn come to anticipating the sound and feel of Beethoven?

Pretty close, at least, in the late masses, which are viewed as continuations of his symphonic writing.
 
After a Facebook recommendation, I picked up a CD on Hannsler (2006) of Helmuth Rilling conducting the "Nelsonmesse", or  "Lord Nelson Mass" (1798) in D Minor  (#11), a “Missa in Angustiis” or “Mass for Troubled Times”, and the “Schopfungsmesse” or “Creation Mass” in B-flat Major, a “Missa solemnis” or “Solemn Mass” (#13).

Each mass has eleven tracks, the Gloria and Credo each occupy three, and Agnus Die taking two, each ending triumphantly and loudly with the Dona nobis pacem.  Masses started ending quietly in the 19th Century.



The D Minor has a little more storm and stress, but it seems to be in major keys more often than minor, with a Gloria theme that is familiar.  The B-flat may have a little more direct anticipation of early Beethoven, especially in the opening. Somehow, by comparison, Mozart’s great Requiem was already forking into a different direction, which might lead to Schubert and Bruckner.

The Creation Mass is a separate work from the Oratorio “The Creation” dating to 1798, which I believe I have somewhere.  But the mass uses a duet from the final duet between Adam and Eve in the oratorio, which created controversy at the time. Empress Maria Theresa ordered Haydn to recompose the passage for her own handwritten copy of the work. Music from the oratorio (and maybe the mass) appears in a scene in the film "Embrace of the Serpent" when the explorer plays it in the jungle on a wind-up record player.

The whole history, when thought about today, could give us pause to think about how modern composers need to earn a living on their commissions, just as they did in the past.  Hadyn had a regular “job” as a composer (for Esterhazy).

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