St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Music notes : Missa Brevis in F ("Jugendmesse")

E-mail Print PDF

THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS
OBSERVATORY

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY, 2008, 10.30am


THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE
CANDLEMASS


Sung to the

MISSA BREVIS IN F ‘JUGENDMESSE
H XXII 1

- Frans Joseph Haydn
1732 - 1809

 

This morning's setting of the Ordinary of the Mass is the Missa Brevis in F, commonly called the Jugendmesse, probably composed in 1749 by the 17 year old Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).

Haydn entered the choir school of Vienna’s Stefansdom at Eastertide 1740, shortly after his eighth birthday. He was to remain a chorister until his voice starting breaking in November 1749. Whether this mass was written, therefore, whilst he was still a chorister or in the last weeks of the year after his dismissal (perhaps even for the Christmas feast) is a matter of speculation; it might well represent the first attempt of a young man unexpectedly thrown onto his own devices to eke out an existence from composition.

Whatever the precise circumstances of the work’s genesis, it is not surprising that the young Haydn should have turned to a musical form with which his years in the cathedral choir would have made him particularly familiar and for which there existed a ready market in the Habsburg capital city, where orchestral masses were the Sunday norm in all but the poorest or most austere churches.

The writing of this little mass is charming in its fresh simplicity. It mirrors the contemporary usages for missae breves, consisting essentially of two violin parts and continuo with four part chorus. The work does not employ winds or strings; and the simplicity (and, significantly, reasonable cost of performing the work) is equally apparent in the lack of the typical quartet of soloists, there being just two sopranos. Perhaps Haydn imagined these parts being sung by himself and his younger brother, Michael, who succeeded him as the prime soloist at the cathedral and who went on to be organist of Salzburg Cathedral in succession to Mozart.

For all its brevity, the work is assured and not without its elements of invention: the brilliant scale passages for the soprano soloists are arresting, as are the syncopated violin parts of the Agnus Dei. Haydn, a firm believer, commenced most of his scores with the inscription “In nomine Domine” and ended them with “Laus Deo” - “Praise to God”. A salutary reminder to those who would characterize these masses as mere concert pieces.

 

Calendar

June 2017 July 2017
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30

Upcoming Events