Joseph Haydn’s Kleine Orgelsolomesse

Mass No. 7 in B-flat MajorMissa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo”, “Kleine Orgelsolomesse” (‘Little Organ Solo Mass’) (H. XXII/7) (c.1775-1778)

The Kleine Orgelsolomesse was composed by Joseph Haydn (b.Rohrau,1732; d.Vienna,1809) between 1775 and 1778. It is officially titled the Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo, honoring Saint John of God (1495-1550) the Spanish founder and patron saint of the Brothers Hospitaller, which had one of their hospitals in Eisenstadt. The order continues to serve the sick in Eisenstadt and in numerous locations worldwide to this day. The Esterházy royalty were the primary supporters of Haydn and also supporters of the Eisenstadt Barmherzigen Brüder. Haydn, who served as the Esterházy Kapellmeister was initially hired by Prince Paul II (r.1721–1762) in 1761. From 1762 to 1790 Haydn served under Paul’s successor Prince Nikolaus I “the Magnificent” (r.1762-1790). During the reign of Nikolaus’ successor, Prince Anton (r.1790–1794), the Esterházy family did without the services of musicians. As a result Haydn was “retired” and given a lucrative pension, which allowed him to spend time touring England and further honing his musical and financial skills. During the reign of Prince Nikolaus II (r.1794-1833), Haydn returned to the Esterházy court, but on a part time “consulting” basis. It was during the first period of his three Esterházy appointments that Haydn composed the Kleine Orgelsolomesse, along with the Mass No. 6 in G Major “Missa Sancti Nikolai”, “Nikolaimesse” (H.XXII/6) (1772) and the Mass No. 8 in C Major “Missa Cellensis”, “Mariazellermesse” (H.XXII/8) (1782). The Little Organ Solo Mass has a somewhat complicated history. The Brothers Hospitaller used a very small chapel as their church that had limited space for organ, chorus and orchestra. The Mass was originally scored for organ, string quartet, limited solo sections and a small choir, but there also exist versions with trumpets, timpani, and clarinets. The obbligato organ solo in the Benedictus is the highlight that puts this Mass in the musical composition genre of “organ solo” Masses, a genre that came into vogue in the middle of the 18th century, at a time when the organ increasingly assumed a solo role within orchestrated choral compositions of the Mass. In addition to the Kleine Orgelsolomesse, notable organ solo Masses included W.A. Mozart’s Mass No.13 in C Major, Missa Brevis No.8, “Organ Solo” K 259 (1776) and Joseph Haydn’s earlier Mass No. 5 in E-flat Major “Missa in Honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae (Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary), “Große Orgelsolomesse” (Great Organ Solo Mass), H. XXII:4 (1770). When compared to the Große Orgelsolomesse, the term kleine refers not to the length of the organ solo in the Benedictus, but to the overall length of the Mass, which for Kleine is 18 minutes as opposed to Große’s 37 minutes – an overall reduction of almost 20 minutes! The Kleine is therefore less than one half the Große in length and corresponding difficulty. The Gloria and Credo are also of interest. Being a missa brevis (short mass), several phrases of the text are set simultaneously in different voices. This extreme “textual compression” in the original score results in the Gloria being less than one minute in length and the Credo slightly over three minutes, making both of them unacceptable for liturgical use because the text is not clearly enunciated. The issue is compounded in the original version of the Credo because the Crucifixus is unusually long for a Missa Brevis. Over the years attempts have been made to rectify this problem and make the entire Mass acceptable for liturgical use, including a “textual elongation” of the Gloria by the composer’s brother, Michael Haydn. Monsignor Richard J. Schuler, the Chorale’s founder and first music director, chose an edition in which the Gloria and Credo are sung fully and thus are liturgically correct. It is this version that the Chorale will use for this Mass.            (18:00)

The Kleine Orgelsolomesse is conducted by Chorale music director Dr. Marc Jaros. Mary E. LeVoir is the organist with soloists Patricia Kent, soprano; Jocelyn Kalajian, contralto; John deCausmeaker, tenor; and Jon Nordstrom, bass. The Schola Cantorum is directed by Paul W. LeVoir. The Kleine Orgelsolomesse was in the repertory of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale prior to its residency at the Church of Saint Agnes in 1974.

Recommended Listening:

  • Haydn: Theresienmesse, Kleine Orgelmesse / Hickox: Collegium Musicum 90 / 1996 / Chandos 0592

  • Haydn: Masses Nos. 7, 9, 11, & 12 / Marriner: Staatskapelle Dresden / 1995 / EMI

  • Haydn: Harmoniemesse, Kleine Orgelmesse / Hill: Brandenburg Orchestra / Hyperion 66508

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