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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN: Nelson Mass / Little Organ Mass
By Carl Bauman
American Record Guide
By Nalen Anthoni
Franz Joseph Haydn
Nelson Mass; Kleine
It was only after the death of the Emperor Joseph II in 1790 that the
way was once more open to composers to provide settings of the liturgy with
full orchestral accompaniment. The removal of the Josephine restrictions of the
previous ten years by the new Emperor Leopold II, followed in 1792 by his
successor, Franz II, made feasible Mozart's great unfinished Requiem and
the six Masses written by Haydn between 1796 and 1802. Of these the so-called Nelson
Mass is one of the greatest.
Joseph Haydn was born in 1732 in Rohrau in Lower Austria, the son of a
wheelwright. Unlike Mozart, he was to enjoy a long and successful life well
into the early years of the next century. His father gave him all the encouragement
needed to start a musical career and at the age of eight, possessed of a fine
treble voice, he joined the choir of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Over a
period of some ten years as a chorister he received training in instrumental
and vocal music, with rather less instruction in music theory, a knowledge of
which he acquired, as he later said, largely through the music he knew and
performed. After leaving the choir school he was obliged to find work to
support himself, serving as an accompanist, teaching and performing. His main
chance came when he entered the service of the Esterházy family in 1761, as
Deputy Kapellmeister, eventually, under Prince Nikolaus, succeeding in
1766 as Kapellmeister, now commissioned by this wealthiest of benefactors
to write operas, symphonies, quartets and all kinds of music and to take charge
of the Prince's musical establishment, principally based at the new Palace of
Eszterháza. Apart from a period in the 1790s when he travelled to London for
two seasons, most of Haydn's music was written for the princely family and
their residences in Vienna, Eisenstadt and Eszterháza. The last of these, where
Haydn worked for nearly 25 years, provided a degree of isolation and the
incentive for the composition of a vast quantity of music, as well as the
convenience of having his own permanent orchestra to work with.
The death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy in 1790 put an end to this
relationship and the Prince's successor disbanded the orchestra, so that
Haydn's services were no longer needed, although he retained his salary and the
title of Kapellmeister. He now moved to Vienna, shortly to accept an
invitation from the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon to visit
England, where he spent some eighteen months from early 1791, enjoying huge
success and receiving an honorary degree at Oxford. Salomon invited Haydn to
London again in 1794 with a commission for six further symphonies and from
Spring 1794 until Summer 1795 Haydn was again acclaimed by the London public.
The accession of anew Esterházy Prince led in 1796 to a rekindling of
interest in music and the return of Haydn to duties under the family's
patronage, now principally at Eisenstadt. The period brought some of Haydn's
greatest works, including the oratorio The Creation in 1798 and The
Seasons in 1801, as well as the three great late Masses, the Missa in
tempore belli (Paukenmesse) in 1796, the so-called Nelson
Mass in 1798 and the Harmoniemesse in 1802. In this last year
Haydn's health began to deteriorate and he was to die five years later, as
Napoleon's troops again occupied Vienna.
The Nelson Mass is a particularly dramatic and emotional work,
well suited to the grandeur of the hero from whom it takes its familiar name.
In truth, the title of Nelson has little or nothing to do with the work that
Haydn had called Missa in angustiis (‘Mass in time of tribulation’). The
Mass was composed, dated in Haydn's own hand, between 10th July and 31st
August, presumably intended for the name day of Princess Esterházy. The
connection with the English admiral is derived from the fact that the work was
first performed shortly after news of Nelson's defeat of Napoleon's fleet at
Aboukir Bay had reached the Austrian capital. There is also some suggestion
that Haydn added a trumpet call in the Benedictus recalling the
courier's own trumpet call when news of the battle was brought to Prince
Esterházy. Whatever the truth of this, since that time the name of Nelson has
been associated with the Mass and both Nelson, with Sir William and Lady
Hamilton, met Haydn in September 1800 during a four-day visit to Eisenstadt
during which there seems to have been a performance of the Mass.
The Nelson Mass was originally scored for three trumpets,
timpani, strings and organ, with the organ part later transcribed by the
Esterházy Kapellmeister Johann Nepomuk Fuchs for woodwind. The Mass is
truly symphonic and opens impressively, trumpets and drums to the fore in the
ominous key of D minor, before the entry of the soprano soloist. The joyful Gloria
is in three sections, a D major Allegro in which soloists are
contrasted with the full choir, followed by a B flat major Qui tollis, marked
Adagio, opening with a bass solo and moving to D minor with an
accompaniment of organ and strings. The final section recalls the first in a
cheerful D major Allegro, leading to the customary fugal ending. The Credo
is again in three sections, an Allegro con spirito and Vivace in
D major framing a G major Largo that starts with a moving soprano solo, Et
incarnatus est. The third section, Et resurrexit soon moves from B
minor to D major once more, to end in triumph. The Sanctus starts with a
meditative Adagio, soon leading to a livelier Pleni sunt coeli. The
Benedictus, moving from D minor to an energetic D major Hosanna in
excelsis, gives further prominence to the solo soprano, with continuingly
demanding high tessitura. Solo voices are used in the G major Agnus Dei, a
movement of prayerful serenity, before the final contrapuntal D major Dona
The earlier Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo or Kleine
Orgelmesse (‘Little Organ Mass’) in B flat major was probably written in
the winter of 1777-78 for the chapel of the Brothers of Mercy in Eisenstadt, in
honour of the founder of the order, St John of God. It is on a much smaller
scale than the Nelson Mass and was originally scored for violins and
organ, with a soprano soloist in the Benedictus and a four-part choir.
It is in six sections and follows contemporary practice of the Missa brevis in
offering compact versions of the Gloria and Credo, with their
relatively long texts, in which phrases are allowed to overlap. The Kyrie is
an Adagio and the vigorous Gloria, introduced by the customary
plainchant, is followed by a Credo that finds a place at its heart for a
moving Adagio setting of the words Et incarnatus est. The Sanctus
includes a Hosanna in excelsis of contrapuntal promise, while the Benedictus,
with its more prominent organ accompaniment, introduces elaborate writing
for the solo soprano, before the return of the Hosanna. The Agnus Dei
pleads for mercy on sinners, the music dying away as the heartfelt Dona
nobis pacem comes to an end.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te. Gloriflcamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi
magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Glory be to God on high.
And on earth peace to men of good will.
We praise thee. We bless thee.
We worship thee. We glorify thee.
We give thee thanks
thy great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father
Lord, only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
Thou that takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father,
Quoniam tu solus sanctus.
Tu solus Dominus.
Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris.
For thou alone art holy.
Thou alone art the Lord.
Thou alone art the most high, Jesus Christ.
With the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.
Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem,
factorem caeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,
Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum
ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo,
lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero.
Genitum non factum, consubstantialem Patri:
per quem omnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos homines,
et propter nostram salutem
descendit de caelis.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things, visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God. Born of the Father
before all generations. God from God,
light from light, true God from true God.
Begotten not made, of one substance with the Father:
through whom all things were made.
Who for us men,
and for our salvation
came down from
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto
ex Maria Virgine: et homo factus est.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato:
passus et sepultus est.
And was incarnate by
the Holy Spirit
of the Virgin Mary:
and was made man.
He was crucified
also for us under Pontius Pilate:
suffered and was
Et resurrexit tertia die,
Et ascendit in caelum:
ad dexteram Patris.
Et iterum venturus est cum gloria
judicare vivos et mortuos:
cujus regni non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum,
qui ex Patre, Filioque procedit.
Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur,
qui locutus est per Prophetas.
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam
Confiteor unum baptisma
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum.
Et vitam venturi saeculi.
And the third day he rose again,
according to the Scriptures.
And ascended into heaven:
and is seated at the right
hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead:
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Lord and giver of life:
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped,
who spoke through the Prophets.
And in one holy, catholic,
I confess one baptism
for the remission of sins.
And I await the resurrection of the dead.
And the life of the world to come.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Blessed is he that
cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi:
dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:
grant us peace.
Dona nobis pacem.
Grant us peace.
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HAYDN: Nelson Mass / Little Organ Mass