Haydn Harmoniemesse and Vivaldi Gloria

Our concert on November 5th 2022 comprises works by two of the most famous and admired composers of the eighteenth century, one Italian, one Austrian, one writing at the beginning of that period the other at the end.  The programme notes below give a broad appreciation of these two men as well as links to other sites where ou can read more about their two works we will be performing.  There are links too to recordings of the music so you can listen in advance of our concert and thus, we hope, appreciate the music all the more when you hear our performance.

Order tickets from the Christ's Hospital Box Office online here >> or by 'phone on 01403 247434 

Haydn's Harmoniemesse 

Joseph Haydn, 1732 to 1809, was the most celebrated composer in Europe in his lifetime.  He was a friend to Mozart and a tutor to Beethoven.  He is considered by many to be both the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" and thus hugely influential, and this despite being  little known outside Austria until he was in his late 50s, having been contracted to compose exclusively for his employers, the Esterhazy family until the death of his patron in 1790.  

Composed in 1802, Haydn's “Harmoniemesse” is his last completed major composition.  He was by this time 70 years old, at a time when “three score years and ten” was expected to be about it, and it seems Haydn himself believed his remaining time was short.  By this point he was in virtual retirement, but was still obliged to write one mass a year in honour of the wife of his patron, Prince Esterhazy, and the “Harmoniemesse” was the sixth and last of these, and some would say it is the greatest of them all.   There is no doubt that this one annual commission was taxed his health and the expectation of an annual work ended after “Harmoniemesse” was delivered.  He lived for a further seven years but could no longer compose.

He wrote in a letter at around the time of this composition “I am an old man, soon to die, and I have only now learned to write for the winds.”  By this he meant that the Harmoniemesse was the first work he had written to be performed specifically by an orchestra that included a wind band, or in German a “Harmonie”.  A full “Harmonie” consisted of pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and French horns (sometimes with one or two flutes) and it is from this that the name now used for this mass comes from. 

This mass has an enormous stylistic range, from fugues that look back to the Baroque to music that comes out of the Enlightenment or that looks forward to early Romanticism, all of it beautifully blended through Haydn's musical personality.  The chorus predominates, with soloists serving to extend and contrast with the larger ensemble, which makes for a “big sing” for the choir, and a work that might be considered more challenging to perform.  It is though a complete delight to sing and to hear.

These notes are based on progamme notes by Martin Pearlman of Boston Baroque Performances and programme notes by “The Choral Society” of New York.

For a more detailed description of the music itself visit Programme Notes of “The Choral Society” of New York 

or to listen to the music there are several versions on YouTube, such as here >>

Portrait of Joseph Haydn

A portrait of Joseph Haydn believed to be by  the artist Thomas Hardy.  Hardy was a portrait painter whose sitters included musical figures active in London during the 1790s.  Haydn visited London twice - in 1791 when he stayed for 18 months and again in 1794. 

Portrait of Antonio Vivaldi

An anonymous portrait in oils in the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna is generally believed to be of Vivaldi. 

Vivaldi's Gloria 

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, 1678 - 1741, wrote his Gloria in Venice, probably in 1715, for the choir of the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage for girls (or more probably a home, generously endowed by the girls' "anonymous" fathers, for the illegitimate daughters of Venetian noblemen and their mistresses). The Ospedale prided itself on the quality of its musical education and the excellence of its choir and orchestra. Vivaldi, a priest, music teacher and virtuoso violinist, composed many sacred works for the Ospedale, where he spent most of his career, as well as hundreds of instrumental concertos to be played by the girls’ orchestra. This, his most famous choral piece, presents the traditional Gloria from the Latin Mass in twelve varied cantata-like sections.
The wonderfully sunny nature of the Gloria, with its distinctive melodies and rhythms, is characteristic of all of Vivaldi’s music, giving it an immediate and universal appeal.  It is his most important sacred work and his most popular choral work, popular with both singers and audiences.

The piece is in twelve sections, each distinguished by a different musical setting. Eight of the movements are composed for the entire chorus; the remaining four feature soloists, singing either alone or with other performers.

Today Vivaldi is one of the most popular of all composers, and during his lifetime he also enjoyed considerable success and fortune, but he squandered the latter through extravagance.   When he died in Vienna he was buried in a pauper’s grave.  For two centuries after his death, the Gloria lay undiscovered until the late 1920s, when it was found buried among a pile of forgotten Vivaldi manuscripts. However, it was not performed until September 1939 in Siena in an edition by the composer Alfredo Casella, but he made significant “elaborations” of his own.  It was not until 1957 that the now familiar original version was published and given its first performance at the First Festival of Baroque Choral Music at Brooklyn College, New York.

These programme notes are based on text by Peter Carey for the Royal Free Singers
and by
René Spencer Saller for St. Louis Symphony 

There are many versions to view online, the most popular having 11 million views !  A recent version, taken at a slightly slower pace, and more akin to our own performance, is here >>