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Notes on Works for Spring Concert 2017

The 'Harmoniemesse'

The 'Harmoniemesse' in B-flat major by Joseph Haydn was written in 1802 and was his last major work before his death in 1809. His late Masses were written to celebrate the name day of Maria Hermenegild, wife of his employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterházy, and they were performed under his direction in the Bergkirche at Eisenstadt. The prominence of wind instruments accompanying this Mass is the reason for the title 'Harmoniemesse', a German word combining 'Harmonie', for a type of wind ensemble, with 'messe' for a 'Mass'. (Haydn's orchestral accompaniament to this work is heavily scored, calling for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in B-flat, 2 trumpets in B-flat, timpani, strings and organ - but in this performance by the two Essex choirs the accompaniament will be given by organ and piano.)

Formative Events Abroad

After the death of Prince Miklós Esterházy in 1790, and the succession of his son Anton, the scale of music in the Esterházy court was much reduced. The great musical tradition at the palace came to an end, and court musicians were made redundant. Haydn kept his Kapellmeister title and was paid a salary, but he was then free to look further afield for work. (Up until that time Haydn's life at the palace had been devoted to writing music and performing music in the service of the court, and managing the court musicians and planning the court's musical activity.) Over the period 1785 to 1783 he spent time in Paris, where he wrote 6 symphonies, Nos. 82 to 87. He then lived for two periods in London where he wrote and conducted 12symphonies, Nos. 93 to 104.
When Nikolaus II succeeded his father Anton in 1794, he invited Joseph Haydn to return as Kapellmeister on a part-time basis, and the musical tradition at the palace was gradually rebuilt, although never to its extent under Miklos Esterházy. Haydn returned to work at the palace and his his main task was then to compose a masse per year for the name day of the wife of his employer: He composed 6 masses. His style of writing had been strongly influenced by his musical experience abroad, particularly his symphonic writing. There had also been a 'wind of change' through church music in that time.

Haydn Still on Form

During the composition of the 'Harmoniemesse', aged 70, Haydn complained that he was ‘labouring wearily on the new Mass’, but there is no sign of any effect of his advancing years in this magnificent work, given its originality and style.

Honoured at the Vatican

The Harmoniemesse was performed at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City for the Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost on 31 May 2009, which coincided with the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death.

Te Deum

The Te Deum is the traditional hymn of praise to God, which proclaims the Catholic belief that He shall come as Judge and give redemption. It is sung on all Sundays when the Gloria is said at Mass, and on other special days, particularly at Eastertide.

Andrew Carter's Te Deum

In 1996 Andrew Carter joined an illustrious list of composers who have set the words of the Te Deum to music and composed for a choral performance. These include Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Bruckner, Furtwängler, Dvorák, and Britten.) Andrew used the traditional Te Deum words but also inserted three settings of well-known hymns, praising God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ.

Andrew has often written specially for children, and he has included a children's choir in several of his major works. (His 'Benedicite', which also involves a children's choir, was sung at the Brentwood Choirs Festival in November 2011.)

Commision and First Performances

The 'Te Deum' was commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the Trinity English Lutherian Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, and its UK premičre was given in 1997 by the East Riding School's Choir and Youth Orchestra, conducted by John Pryce-Jones.