St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Music notes : Missa in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae ("Grosse Orgelmesse")

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THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS
OBSERVATORY

SUNDAY, 16 AUGUST, 2009, 10.30am


THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, MARY


Sung to the

MISSA i.h. BEATISSIMAE VIRGINIS MARIAE
GROSSE ORGELMESSE
H XXII 4

- Frans Joseph Haydn
1732 - 1809



Although this is numbered as number 4 in the Hoboken catalogue of Haydn's masses, it is in fact the composer’s fifth work in the form, following the missing Missa sunt bona mixta malis.

Haydn joined the service of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy as Vice-Kapellmeister in 1761 but only commenced composing for the Prince’s chapel when he succeeded Gregor Werner as Master of the Music in 1766. He almost immediately wrote a large scale work, also dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and better known by its sobriquet, the “Cecilia mass”. After composing the now lost Missa sunt bona, this morning’s work was next in the sequence. The date of composition has been a matter of some conjecture; but a recent discovery in the Esterhazy archives of an account dated 1770 for the purchase of “two new cor anglais each with two e flats and two lengths of pipe as agreed”, puts the matter beyond reasonable doubt, since this very work requires two cor anglais with an extended range to a bottom E flat.

The original orchestration of the work was accordingly for two “modified” cor anglais and two horns, together with the usual Kirchentrio of strings (without violas) and the continuo group consisting of cello, bassoon, violone and organ. In addition, the organ part was extended into a virtuoso concertante presence, giving the mass its Austrian nickname, the “Great Organ Mass”.

Only the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei movements have survived in the autograph, the remaining movements being reconstructed from contemporary or near contemporary copies of vocal and instrumental parts in the libraries of numerous churches and abbeys. Some of these include parts for trumpets and timpani; but since the Esterhaza orchestra did not have trumpets until 1773, it is clear that these parts (whether or not subsequently added by Haydn himself) were not part of the original conception, in which form we present the mass today.

 

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