Programme notes by Roger Tilley
Most of us have heard music by Joseph Haydn, usually keyboard sonatas or string quartets. His music has a familiar sound of the “Classical” period, both in harmony and structure and often seems slightly routine. This is to be expected since most of his music was composed while he was a court musician. Tonight’s programme will introduce you to Haydn’s church music, much less familiar and much less routine.
            The motet “Insanae et Vanae Curae” is Haydn’s last work. It is his final judgment on the vanity of life, and it is amongst his most dramatic and colourful writing. The original work was composed for choir and orchestra, but tonight’s performance will use the famous organ arrangement by J. Barnby.
            The organ was relatively insignificant during the Classical period, so there is little written for it by Classical composers. Although Haydn played the organ, his only work for the instrument was a concerto. However, his keyboard sonatas are readily adaptable to performance on the organ, as we shall hear in the Sonata in D.
            “Creation” is the most famous of Haydn’s choral works, and the chorus “The Heavens are Telling” the most famous part of it. A piece which is very effective in its simplicity.
            The main work being performed tonight is the Missa brevis de St Joannis de Deo, often known as the Little Organ Mass. Written in 1775 for the monastery of Eisenstadt, it was originally a very short mass for choir, two violins and chamber organ. The Gloria and Credo movements were made short by having different words sung by each of the voices in the choir, causing considerable confusion for the listener. In 1795 Joseph’s brother Michael rearranged the mass, expanding the Gloria and Credo while also adding several other instruments, including trumpets. The work fell into obscurity until 1923 when F. Habel published a score where the Gloria and Credo were extended to meet “liturgical demands”. This is the version you will hear tonight. Although not Haydn’s original version, it simply reuses some of the material to create an excellently balanced work. It is most definitely music “serving to awaken feelings of religious devotion” (Fellerer). <<return
Roger Tilley, 1 November 2007