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Haydn’s Nelson Mass has long been associated with periods of uncertainty and turmoil. Originally entitled Missa in angustiis, ‘Mass in a time of anxiety’, it was written in 1798 in the immediate aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrian armies, when Haydn was resident at Eisenstadt in eastern Austria. During the rehearsals for this CD in April 2013, the words in angustiis took on a new meaning for the members of Boston Baroque when their work was disrupted by the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the city locked down during the ensuing manhunt.

The sound of Boston Baroque’s chorus is stridently Italianate and, in the context of the rather austere orchestration of the Mass (woodwind are omitted, leaving strings and brass), the chorus is perhaps a little too strong in relation to the orchestra, though the result is certainly dramatic. Kevin Deas’ velvety bass- baritone stands out in the ‘Qui tollis’, and the other soloists Keith Jameson, Abigail Fischer and Mary Wilson perform expressively in the quartet sections under Martin Pearlman’s direction. It could be the venue, the arrangement of the microphones, or a number of other issues rather than the performers themselves, but this recording’s sound quality is not always crystalline. Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 in B flat major finishes the disc and Boston Baroque perform it with vigour.

Nicholas Bown Read the full review on Agora Classica


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