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CD Review

Franz Joseph Haydn

  • Mass #11 "Missa in angustiis" (Nelson Mass), Hob XXII:11 *
  • Te Deum in C Major, Hob.XXIIIc:2
* Felicity Lott, soprano
* Carolyn Watkinson, contralto
* Maldwyn Davies, tenor
* David Wilson-Johnson, bass
Nicholas Parle, organ
English Concert & Choir/Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 423097-2
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This is the fourth "Nelson Mass" I've reviewed for Classical Net, and arguably the best of the lot. Bernstein's Sony reading easily is the weakest, a heavy and coarsely sung approach proves its undoing. Of the rest, David Willcocks is rightfully a classic, and Hickox is very good, if not essential. Trevor Pinnock's Haydn is not especially consistent in terms of quality, so this disc is all the more important as a document of artistic excellence from these forces in the repertoire.

And excellent it remains. Nearly 30 years later, nobody has really equaled these soloists. Felicity Lott is basically ideal as the soprano soloist, and everyone else is at least distinguished. Meanwhile, the choral forces are enthusiastic and deeply moving. Though obviously on period forces, nothing feels scaled down or small. Those brass players are confident, as are the sharply-etched strings. Everything goes very well, and this is probably the finest period version on the market. In terms of approach, it's very similar to the Hickox in Chandos, except that this solo team is superior and everyone seems to be having more fun.

The Te Deum makes a good deal of sense as a coupling. Few wrote music as invigorating as Haydn, and few have since. There's a number of interesting settings over the centuries (Dvořák's has a particularly amusing beginning that sounds like something out of a cartoon), but few well played and sung as this one. Pinnock – who really can come off as stiff and disinterested – clearly responds to the joy and passion in both works, and so do his singers and players. The sound remains very fine, and this belongs in every choral collection.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman