Monday, December 29, 2008

Lord Nelson Mass

Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount of Nelson as Vice Admiral, portait painted by Lemuel Francis Abbott.The plan is that we'll be performing Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass in September 2009. Here is a bit more about this mass (from Wikipedia):

The Missa in Angustiis ("Mass for troubled times") or Nelson Mass (Hob. XXII:11), is one of fourteen masses written by Joseph Haydn.

Haydn's chief biographer, H. C. Robbins Landon, has written that this mass "is arguably Haydn's greatest single composition." Because of a shortage of musicians at the court at that time, it is scored for just strings, trumpets and timpani. Later editors and arrangers added what they perceived to be missing woodwind parts, but the original scoring has again become the accepted choice for modern performances.

Though in 1798, when he wrote this Mass, Haydn's reputation was at its peak, his world was in turmoil. Napoleon had won four major battles with Austria in less than a year. The previous year, in early 1797, his armies had crossed the Alps and threatened Vienna itself. In May of 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt to destroy Britain's trade routes to the East.

The summer of 1798 was therefore a terrifying time for Austria, and when Haydn finished this Mass, his own title, in the catalogue of his works, was "Missa in Angustiis" or "Mass in Time of Distress." What Haydn didn't know when he wrote the Mass - but what he and his audience heard (perhaps on the very day of the first performance September 15) was that on August 1, Napoleon had been dealt a stunning defeat in the Battle of the Nile by English forces led by Admiral Horatio Nelson. Because of this coincidence, the Mass gradually acquired the nickname "Lord Nelson Mass."

Here are some video samples:
Kyrie
Gloria
Credo (1)
Credo (2)
Credo (3)

1 comment:

AlanGirvan said...

It will be great to sing the Nelson Mass again. Last time performed in Dunedin was in 2007 by Knox Church Choir.

As well as strings, trumpets and drums, the original version includes an organ. I wonder if they will use Norma, or the Music Department's chamber organ