HAYDN: Missa in tempore belli ("Paukenmesse"). Te Deum(2). Incidental music to "Alfred, König der Angelsachsen"
Soloists/Collegium Musicum 90/Richard Hickox, cond.
Chandos 0633 (F) (DDD) TT: 63:38
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There are many ways to conduct the masses of Franz Joseph Haydn. There's Leonard Bernstein's Haydn, which is intense and overheated. Then, there's the more classical approach, which is cool, controlled and understated. Both are valid. Some say that Bernstein, and especially late-Bernstein, became self-indulgent at the expense of taste and integrity. So be it.

Judging from this recent CD featuring the "Mass in time of war," Richard Hickox's Haydn should delight traditionalists. Tempos are tight but solid. Dynamic variation is kept within Classical bounds while inner voices, major themes and accompaniments fuse into a balanced, well-articulated whole. Fast sections sparkle, slow ones sing gently. Hickox is aided by a fine quartet of soloists -- soprano Nancy Argenta, mezzo-soprano Catherine Denley, tenor Mark Padmore, baritone Stephen Varcoe -- and the 24 responsive chorus members from Collegium Musicum 90. However fine is Hickox's Haydn, one yearns for some of Bernstein's excitement and urgency, especially in the imploring "Agnus Dei" and exultant "Sanctus."

The rest of the CD sags a bit due primarily to Haydn's utilitarian music. He composed some incidental music for an English play by Alexander Bicknell titled "Alfred, König der Angelsachsen" )("Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons"). All three cues are included on the CD: one aria, a chorus and an incomplete duet. As a Haydn curiosity, the vocal writing is appropriate and agreeable. The same can be said for the two "Te Deums" (both in C major) that fill out the CD.

K.S. (Oct. 2000)