MASSES of MASSES
Haydn at Christmas
Saturday 5 December 2015 at 7.30pm
 
 
  Date:  Saturday 5 December 2015
  Time: 7.30pm
  Venue:  St Matthew’s Church, Kettering Road, Northampton, NN1 4RY
 
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Our final concert in our 2015 series of concerts entitled Masses of Masses ends with a joyous blaze of wit and glory. The concert itself takes place on the eve of St Nicholas’ Day, the patron saint of children, so it is entirely appropriate that the St Nicholas Mass and Toy Symphony begin the proceedings.

Haydn was one of the finest boy choristers of his generation, and his ethereal tones echoed around St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna right through until his sixteenth birthday. Indeed the Master of the Choristers at St Stephen’s suggested that Haydn become a castrato, but his father objected and the operation never went ahead!

His writing in the two Masses presented in the concert is assured, graceful and intense by turns, and shows complete command of both choir and orchestra … and in the final work in the concert, he even adds an organ soloist into the mix. The St Nicholas Mass was to celebrate the name-day – the Feast of St Nicholas – of Haydn’s employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, on 6 December 1772. Written for liturgical offering rather than concert performance, Haydn had to balance the needs of his employer (that the service not be lengthy) with the rules of the church (that the text of the Mass be set in its entirety). The solution was to compress the longest text, the Credo, with different lines of the text sung simultaneously by the four sections of the choir. Haydn’s skill as a composer ensures that the Credo doesn’t descend into chaos, but there is plenty of charm and humour in the work.

This is even more the case for the Mass commonly known as the ‘Great’ Organ Solo Mass (actually entitled Missa in honorem Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ). This Mass was composed just two years earlier, at the very beginning of Haydn’s service to Prince Nicolaus, for a Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has the unusual feature of two English horns in the orchestra and a substantial solo rôle for the organist.

Between these two great Masses is a work that is sometimes attributed to Haydn, but more often now attributed to Leopold Mozart, father of the great Wolfgang himself. This very short symphony is a sweet and dainty work for strings, organ and nine players of toy instruments – two toy trumpets, two ratchets, two nightingale whistles, two cuckoo calls and one toy drum! Expect some very surprising celebrity soloists!

Programme:

Northampton Bach Choir
Bach Camerata


Soprano: Rachel Bedford
Contralto: Amanda Pyke
Tenor: Stephen George
Bass: Gwion Thomas
Conductor: Lee Dunleavy

Haydn St Nicholas Mass in G, Hob. XXII:6 (35’)
Haydn (attrib.) Toy Symphony (8’)
Haydn ‘Great’ Organ Solo Mass in Eb, Hob. XXII:4 (45’)

 
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