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Throughout his remarkable survey of Haydns Masses, Richard Hickox has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and nowhere more delightfully so than in this coupling of the Grosse Orgelmesse
("Great Organ Mass") and the Missa Cellensis
. Combining the best of period-instrument practices with an unashamed romanticism, Hickox and his experienced team elicit all the meditative warmth from the Organ Mass, one of the more introspective of Haydns settings in the unusual key of E flat. Shorn of celebratory fanfares, it is the interplay of chorus, cor anglais (substituting for oboes) and organ in the Gratias, Sanctus and Agnus Dei that define the works meditative nature; and when the organ breaks free of its continuo role in the Benedictus, its plangent timbre is both surprising and moving.
A more traditional Mass is Haydns second setting of the Missa Cellensis (1782), with its grounding in the bright tonality of C major and its glorifying trumpets and timpani. Yet this sophisticated and highly polished composition is a work of shifting moods, too, with Mozartian chromaticisms in the Et incarnatus and an operatic Benedictus (as the booklet notes, the music here is adapted from Il mondo della luna). Throughout both works, Hickoxs warm-hearted readings are matched by ever-sympathetic Chandos recording. Taken as a whole this revelatory series firmly establishes Haydns Masses as one of the greatest glories of the Classical repertoire.--Mark Walker