Haydn's Nelson Mass in Recorded Performance: Text and Context

By November, Nancy | Sacred Music, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Haydn's Nelson Mass in Recorded Performance: Text and Context


November, Nancy, Sacred Music


In his 1995 article on editions of Haydn's "Nelson" Mass (Missa in Angustiis, Hob. XXII:11, 1798), Denis McCaldin observes: "It may not be over-extravagant to suggest that the twentieth-century revival of interest in Haydn (the so-called Haydn Renaissance) has come about more through recordings than by any other process." (1) The present case-study of the recording history of the "Nelson" Mass starts to examine McCaldin's suggestion. It provides snapshots of this work's recording history by means of a study of two influential recordings of the early 1960s, and two important period-instrument recordings from the mid-late 1990s. The four recordings of Haydn's "Nelson" Mass that are considered here are listed below. The focal question for the study of these was as follows: what do these recordings have to say about our revived interest in Haydn's music in terms of our attitudes to historical text and context?

1. Sylvia Stahlman (soprano), Helen Watts (mezzo-soprano), Wilfred Brown (tenor), Tom Krause (bass baritone), Simon Preston (organ); choir of King's College, Cambridge and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir David Willcocks. King's College Chapel, Cambridge, 1962; re-released on Decca 480 1907 (2009).

2. Judith Blegen (soprano), Gwendolyn Killebrew (mezzo-soprano), Kenneth Riegel (tenor), Simon Estes (bass); Westminster Choir and New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Recorded in the Philharmonic Hall, now Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, January 17, 1963. Originally released 1969, Sony Music Entertainment; re-released on Sony LC 06868 (2009 compilation).

3. Juba Orgonasova (soprano), Elisabeth von Magnus (mezzo-soprano), Deon van der Walk (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass baritone); Arnold Schoenberg Choir and Concentus Musikus Wien conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Recorded in Vienna, Casino Zogernitz, June 1996. Teldec 0630 17129 2 (1998).

4. Donna Brown (soprano), Sally Bruce Payne (mezzo-soprano), Peter Butterfield (tenor), Gerald Finley (bass); Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. Recorded in The Colosseum, Watford, November 22-25, 1997. Philips 470 286-2 (Decca 2002 release).

Thirty-five years separate the first and last of the recordings surveyed here. It was during this time--the 1960s through to the 1990s--that what one might call the "Haydn Renaissance" really took shape. In terms of Haydn scholarship, particular impetus was provided by the work of H. C. Robbins Landon and Jens Peter Larsen. In 1963, for instance, Landon produced a new edition of the "Nelson" Mass, which was the first to pay close attention to the rich source material available for the work; indeed, it was the first edition to be based on the autograph score. Landon removed many of the editorial interventions that are to be found in the original 1803 Breitkopf & Hartel edition, including editor August Muller's arrangements of Haydn's trumpet and timpani parts. (2) Two other important editions followed: in 1965, Gunther Thomas's edition for Joseph Haydn Werke appeared, which was the first to incorporate the clarinet and horn parts that were omitted in the Breitkopf edition; the edition also added, in small print, the wind parts that are found in the Esterhazy archives, which are thought to derive from Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, one of Haydn's successors. In 1996, McCaldin produced an edition that contained both the original version (based on the autograph) and the version with Fuchs's wind parts. (3) We shall consider whether this scholarship seems to have had any impact on the recordings surveyed. In other words, we shall explore the extent to which the scholarly Haydn Renaissance has had an impact on the Haydn revival that McCaldin conjectures has been so strong in the sphere of performance.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We can also ask: who or what, exactly, is being revived in these performances of Haydn's music? …

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