on 31 March 2009
I originally bought this boxed set because of wanting to hear one of the Haydn Masses that could easily be confused with another -in name anyway- (Missa Cellensis No 2 aka Mariazeller Mass and Missa Cellensis aka Missa Sanctae Caeciliae).
Since I already knew and loved some of the other Haydn masses, I thought that buying a boxed set would be a good investment.
The set is an 8 cd set with each cd in a thin card pocket so that the whole boxed set will fit through a letter box.
The boxed set is extremely good value and is a valuable addition to a CD collection. The strange thing about this is that in the 43 page accompanying booklet, it directs you to the Chandos website where you find that you can buy each of these cds as mp3 downloads. However, be advised that it is actually cheaper to buy this boxed set from Amazon rather than pay for the mp3 downloads.
The boxed set contains the following :
Mass in B flat major (Hob XXII:12) Theresienmesse
Missa brevis Sancti Joannus de Deo (Hob XXII:7) Kleine Orgelmesse
Missa solemnis (Hob XXII:13) Creation Mass
Missa rorate coeli desuper (Hob XXII:3) in G Major
Alternative Gloria for Empress MArie Therese
Mass (Hob XXII:14) in B flat major Harmoniemesse
Salve Regina (Hob XXIIIb:1) in E major
Te Deum (HobXXIIIc:1)
Missa in tempore belli (Hob XXII:9)Paukenmesse
Incidental music to 'Alfred, Konig der Angelsachsen' (Hob XX:5a, 5b )
Te Deum (Hob XXIIIc:2)
Mass (Hob XXIIIc:2) Nelsonmesse
Ave Regina (Hob XXIIIb:3) in A major
Missa Brevis (Hob XXII:1) in F major
Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida (Hob XXII:10) Heiligmesse
Missa Sancti Nicolai (Hob XXII:6) Nikolaimesse
Missa Cellensis (Hob XXII:5) Missa Sanctae Caeciliae
Missa sunt bona mixta malis (HobXXII:2) in D minor
Missa in honorem (Hob XXII:4) Grosse Orgelmesse
Missa Cellensis No 2 (Hob XXII:8) Mariazeller Mass
Haydn's mass settings are superb and some may truly be called masterpieces, I think - the Nelson Mass and the Theresienmesse among them. They are full of fabulous music and this is an excellent set of all of Haydn's masses. I also have a much-played and loved set on Decca of 60s recordings by George Guest and others. Both are terrific but as a set I think I prefer this one.
The recordings from the late 1990s show why Richard Hickox is regarded as one of the finest choral conductors of the 20th Century. With a large series of recordings like this by a single ensemble there is always the worry that some pieces may have a slight done-to-order feel or that it will begin to sound a bit weary in places. In fact, Hickox draws wonderful performances from his soloists and chorus throughout and the engagement with both music and text is a delight. In the Sanctus of the Nelson Mass, for example, the dense, beautiful intensity of "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus" develops into light-filled joy at "pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua," as the world really does seem to be filled with glory. The same glory can be found in plenty of places - the opening of the Gloria of the Threresienmesse is particularly wonderful - not because of over-loud blazing bombast, but sheer beauty and joyfulness of playing and singing.
The soloists, who include stars like Mark Padmore, Steven Varcoe and Nancy Argenta, are uniformly excellent and the chorus and instrumental ensemble are terrific. With roughly 25 players and an equal number of singers (although this varies a bit) they are light and supple, but have enough power to provide the necessary welly when needed. Instrumentalists include people like Simon Standage, Crispian Steele-Perkins and David Blackadder which gives an idea of the quality of the performers here.
The recorded sound is clear and warm with just the right amount of resonance to enhance the sound without blurring it, the presentation is attractive and the notes are very good. This really is a set to give pleasure for many years and, at this price for 8CDs of fabulous music in first-rate performances, you can't really go wrong. Very warmly recommended.