St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Music notes : Missa Cellensis in C ("Mariazeller-Messe")

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SUNDAY, 12 APRIL, 2009 at 10.30am



- Franz Joseph Haydn
1732 - 1809

Numbered as Haydn's eighth mass in the catalogue, the “Mass for Mariazell” is actually the ninth if one includes the composer’s earliest known work, the little Rorate coeli mass (which was only rediscovered in 1957), with which we commenced this Haydn Project at the high mass on Advent Sunday past. It has enjoyed popularity since its first performance at the important Styrian pilgrimage church of Mariazell in the summer of 1782.

The work was the first mass which the composer wrote after the S.Nicolai of 1772 and the smaller Kleine Orgelmesse (which we will sing on the Feast of the Ascension on 21 May) of 1778. It is very much in the grand style, drawing on his earlier large-scale masses, notably the Grosse Orgelmesse. It can rightly be considered a precursor to the final legacy of the composer: the six great masses of the years 1796- 1802.

The orchestration is generous (oboes and independent bassoon, trumpets and timpani as well as the usual strings and basso continuo) but entirely appropriate to the generally vigorous and even forceful choral writing that dominates the work. But all is not mere exuberance; the buoyant sense of celebration is structured into fugues (concluding the Gloria, Credo and Agnus Dei) and even a sonata (the vivace section of the Kyries). There is an extended aria for the soprano in the Gratias episode of the Gloria; and the Benedictus has a lovely sequential phrase which brings to mind the Emperor’s Hymn, written in 1797 and subsequently the Austrian (and later German) national anthem.

Anton Liebe, who was elevated to the aristocracy in recognition of his military services to the Austrian Empire, commissioned this work from Haydn to be presented as an offering to the important church at Mariazell in Styria which, on account of its relative proximity, was a favourite pilgrimage destination for the Viennese.

As the significant cost of these masses cannot come from our normal operating budget, we earnestly request donations from lovers of liturgical music. Please contact either the Organist or the Rector in this regard. In addition, singers who would like to audition for the Choir of the Haydn Project (distinct from the Church Choir) are likewise invited to approach the Organist.



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