Shop > Joseph Haydn, Nelson Mass
Jonty Ward treble Hugh Cutting alto
Nick Pritchard tenor Tom Edwards bass
Choir of New College Oxford
New Century Baroque
Directed by Edward Higginbottom
The scoring used in this new recording is Haydn's original primary-coloured orchestration for strings and trumpets. This brings to the performance an arguably more characterful sound-world than when the woodwinds are employed (after the first edition by Breitkopf & Härtel). In addition, we source the solo voices from the Choir, making the vocal ensemble fully cohesive with the chorus. This makes complete sense for the alto, tenor and bass soloists, whose technical demands are no more exacting that the chorus parts. But it raises questions for the soprano solo part, written for a singer of a very different cut. Here, New College sticks to its belief in the capacity of boys (some boys at least) to measure up to the highest demands of vocal artistry. You won't find another recording which so fully celebrates the capacity of a boys' choir to scale this particular summit.
The motet Insanae et vanae curae, contemporary with the Mass, and occupying the same dramatic world, is sung as an Offertory motet. The scoring of the motet has been adapted to the scoring of the Mass: woodwinds have been excised and in their place the organ (as in the Nelson Mass) provides the figurations otherwise lost.
"Many excellent recordings abound but none has such a particular drawing point as on the disc released here, which features the treble Jonty Ward singing the soprano solos. His tone is warm and even, with a hint of a ‘continental’ flavor. His tuning is spot-on throughout, with just an occasional loss of agility in some of Haydn’s more awkward semiquaver twists. The ‘Et incarnatus’ is Ward’s finest moment, full of beautifully shaped phrasing. The efforts of the other soloists, also drawn from the choir’s ranks, provide a vivid foil to the sonority of the main choir. Each voice is clearly etched and the music dispatched in a businesslike manner. Higginbottom’s tempi are spot-on too. I enjoyed his spacious approach to the Credo, despite Haydn’s marking, Allegro con spirito. The Mass is heard here in Haydn’s primary scoring, minus the woodwinds. The incorporation of the stormy D minor ferment which is Insanae et vanae curae as the offertory motet is a masterstroke. This too is givena fully nuanccd and sprightly performance by both choir and New Century Baroque.
One could quibble about the lack of Germanic Latin pronunciation but overall is a polished disc of great music and deserves to be widely heard."
Malcolm Riley, Gramophone Magazine
"Stunning! This recording of the Nelson Mass is a triumph for all the musicians,
but one of them in particular may tip FCM readers into buying this performance, and he is the treble, Jonty Ward, who sings with glorious assurance and accuracy. Dr Higginbottom paces the music perfectly, the other singers, chorus or soloist, invest this performance with all that one would wish. Just listen to Master Ward singing the Et incarnatus est from the Credo – just sublime. Buy the disc now!"
Roger Judd, Cathedral Music
"Haydn’s magnificent Missa in Angustiis of 1798 – the so-called ‘Nelson Mass’, composed at the height of the Napoleonic Wars – has given rise to some dramatic recordings, with its stark scoring for trumpets, drums, organ and strings, and its menacing fanfares. This latest account, by the forces of New College, Oxford, is less punchy, more liturgical than some, but scarcely less intent in purpose.
Instead of the usual operatic soloist in the florid solo soprano passages, we have a remarkably secure and expressive boy treble in Jonty Ward, while the Choir of New College sing with all their usual focus. Uniquely, Higginbottom interposes Haydn’s stirring motet Insanae et vanae curae (‘Deluded and vain cares assault the mind’) as an Offertory between the Credo and Sanctus – where its D minor-major tonality, and alternations of storminess and calm, fit in most effectively with the ambiguous mood-swings of the Mass as a whole.
"The period strings of New Century Baroque number only around 20, and the one drawback to the resonant church recording is that the Haydn’s hyperactive violin lines occasionally get covered by the trumpets and choir. The CD is also rather short-measure. Recommendable, all the same."
Bryan Northcott, BBC Music Magazine
2 Gloria in excelsis Deo
3 Qui tollis peccata mundi
4 Quoniam tu solus sanctus
5 Credo in unum Deum
6 Et incarnatus est
7 Et resurrexit
8 Insanae et vanae curae
12 Agnus Dei
13 Dona nobis pacem
Total Playing time: 48'43''
Recorded in St Michael's Church, Summertown, Oxford, July 2011
Released September 2012
Novum: NCR 1385