Monday, May 7, 2007

MASS VOICES

The Palmerston North Choral Society,
directed by Alison Stewart, proudly presents:

Weber - Jubilation Mass
Haydn - Mass In Time Of War

Soprano - Natalie Stent
Contralto - Rebecca Murphy
Tenor - Richard Taylor
Bass - Craig Beardsworth
Organ - Roy Tankersley

Saturday 12 May 2007, 7:30 pm

All Saints Church, 348 Church Street, Palmerston North

Tickets are available from choir members and door sales.
Adult $20, concession $17, student $10, child (under 10) free

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) are both ‘Germanic’ composers whose work has universal appeal. The music of Haydn is ‘classical’ (in a narrow sense), and that of Weber is ‘romantic’, exerting great influence on Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

The two men are far apart in their dates of birth, but rather close in their death-dates. Haydn’s life was twice as long as Weber’s, because Carl succumbed to ‘consumption’, and on an earlier occasion he had a lucky escape after swigging from a wine bottle that actually contained nitric acid; he survived, but his voice and his general health were badly affected. So it is a cause for jubilation that we have this Jubelmesse, and his great opera Der Freisch├╝tz (The Free Shooter, or The Marksman).

Carl had a cousin named Constanze Weber, who married Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), another short-lived genius, who died of overwork and kidney failure, it would seem (though not really in poverty, and he was not poisoned by Antonio Salieri).

Weber was a contemporary of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), who apparently died of lead poisoning, and Franz Schubert (1797-1828), whose life was devastated by syphilis. All these suffering composers seemed to be producing their works in a feverish race with death. However, Joseph Haydn’s only woe was an occasional brief bout of composer’s block, which drove him to his knees to ask God why the flow from Heaven had suddenly stopped.

A connection between Weber and Haydn (and Mozart, who knew both the Haydn brothers) was that Carl had Michael Haydn as his teacher of composition, in 1798, in Salzburg.

The occasion of Weber’s Jubilation Mass was the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Friedrich Elector of Saxony and his consort Maria Amalie, in 1819.

The ‘time of war’ in the Haydn mass was when Napoleon was marching across Europe in 1796. Though it is not an opera, it is a symphony with voices, to add to his vast collection of 104. It ends, of course, with the prayer for peace: Dona nobis pacem. The French invaders overwhelmed the Austrian army, but they gave Haydn sanctuary in his home in Vienna. In 1798 he produced another great mass (Missa in angustiis, Mass in dire straits) which became known as The Nelson Mass, because of Horatio Nelson’s victory over Napoleon in that year. The cunning Corsican rose up again, but Tchaikovsky was able to look back and celebrate Napoleon’s discomfiture in Russia, with his 1812 Overture. And Beethoven, although he had once idolized Napoleon and had temporarily dedicated his third symphony (Eroica) to him, produced a Battle Symphony (Opus 91) in honour of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo in 1815.

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