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Johann Michael HAYDN: "Requiem in B" / Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART: "Kleinere Kirchenwerke"

Lydia Teuscher, sopranoa; Manami Kusano, contraltob; Julian Prégardien, tenorc; Jens Hamann, bassd
KammerChor Saarbrückene; Kammerphilharmonie Mannheimf
Dir: Georg Grün
rec: March 4 - 5, 2006, Saarbrücken, Funkhaus Halberg
Carus - 83.353 (© 2006) (62'46")

Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806): Requiem in B flat (MH 838) (ed. G. Kronecker)abcdef; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Ave verum corpus (KV 618)ef; God is our refuge (KV 20)e; Misericordias Domini (Offertorium pro omni tempore) (KV 222)ef; Venite populi (Offertorium de venerabili sacramentum) (KV 260)ef

Recently there seems to be an increasing interest in the music of Johann Michael Haydn. For a long time he was only mentioned as being the younger brother of Franz Joseph, and a good friend of Mozart, but his music was almost completely ignored. From time to time a record with sacred music or chamber music was released, but he was't appearing on concert programmes and in the record catalogue frequently. 2006 was the bicentennial of his death, and this apparently led to a number of new recordings with his music. One must hope this isn't a temporary wave, but the beginning of a thorough and serious exploration of his oeuvre. After all, none other than Mozart and Schubert were great admirers of his music. And the German romantic poet E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote: "Everyone with knowledge of music and its literature knows … that Michael Haydn, as a composer for the church, is one of the finest artists in this field." And although Haydn wrote music in all genres, it is his sacred music he is most famous for, and to which he devoted most time in the second part of his career. In 1763 he entered the service of the prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, first as leader of the orchestra, from 1782 as organist at the court and in the cathedral, as successor of Mozart. He stayed at his post until his death.

The Requiem in B flat was written at the request of empress Marie Therese in 1805, but the reason for that is not known. Unfortunately Haydn, who had been in poor health for some time, wasn't able to finish the work. And Haydn got the impression he was writing the work for his own death, "like the immortal Mozart". In the end even less of this Requiem was finished when Haydn died than of Mozart's Requiem (KV 626): only the first two sections, Requiem aeternam and Kyrie, were complete. And whereas Mozart left some sketches for other sections of his Requiem, nothing of the sort is known in the case of Haydn's Requiem. He died on 10 August 1806 and three days later the torso of his Requiem was performed at his own funeral. At the occasion the missing parts were taken from an earlier Requiem by Haydn, the Schrattenbach-Requiem, dating from 1771. Shortly thereafter Mozart's Requiem was performed at the memorial service for Haydn in the church of Salzburg University.

In 1811 the two sections of Haydn's Requiem were published in Leipzig, probably at the initiative of Haydn's pupil Sigismund Ritter von Neukomm. It got a positive reception from the above-mentioned E.T.A. Hoffmann. The fact that this Requiem is recorded here completely is the result of the work of Gunther Kronecker (1803-1847), who composed the missing parts in 1839 when he was choirmaster of the Benedictine monastery of Kremsmünster in Upper Austria. Kronecker was well acquainted with the work of Johann Michael Haydn and attempted to write the remaining parts in his style. For this he made use of the above-mentioned Schrattenbach-Requiem, as well as Mozart's Requiem and another setting of the Requiem, written around 1793 by Georg Pasterwitz, which has been preserved in Johann Michael Haydn's handwriting and was assumed to be his own work.

Kronecker has done a fine job, and his work is a worthy extension of Haydn's Requiem. There are several instances where the text is eloquently expressed in the music, and Kronecker also pais attention to the contrasts in the texts of the Requiem. But he is less adventurous in his harmonic language: the first two sections are a little spicier here and there.

The combination with choral pieces by Mozart is not without logic, as Mozart was a friend and admirer of Johann Michael Haydn. Even so I had preferred to hear some other pieces by Haydn himself. The least-known piece is God is our refuge, a very short motet – or whatever it should be called – which Mozart composed while in London. Like the two offertorios (KV 220 and 260) it is written in polyphonic style. Mozart sent the offertorio Misericordias Domini (KV 222) to Padre Martini in Milan, who for a short while was his teacher and a strong advocate of counterpoint. He was full of praise for Mozart's work, which he thought was exactly what modern music was all about.

The works on this disc are given good performances by everyone involved. It is important to note that the soloists blend well with each other as well as with the choir, which is especially important as most solo sections in Haydn's Requiem are fully integrated in the tutti, and there are also a number of trios and quartets in this work.

One could perhaps argue that the style of interpretation is a little too moderate, for example in regard to dynamic differentiation. But one has to think of the fact that the largest part of Haydn's Requiem is written by Kronecker, who stylistically was connected to what we call the Biedermeier, which can hardly be associated with a very dramatic approach. It could well be that the performance on this disc is not unlike the one given in 1847 at the occasion of Kronecker's funeral.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Johann Michael Haydn Gesellschaft
Kammerchor Saarbrücken

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