Much of his church music, admittedly, lacks any more than a hint of introspection, spirituality or light and shade. One always has the impression that in Haydn’s take on Catholicism a good time was had by all. Even the supposedly darker Missa in tempore belli, nicknamed the “Timpani Mass”, really becomes ominous only with the menacing timpani figures in the Agnus Dei depicting Napoleon’s army besieging south-east Austria. Otherwise, only the unsettled minor key mood of the Benedictus undermines the otherwise joyful mood.
Interestingly, the man whom Beethoven a few years later considered (initially at least) to be a liberator was viewed by the more conventional Haydn as a threat to civilisation. That said, performances of this calibre deserve an unreserved welcome. These two works were composed 24 years apart, the Mariazellermesse in 1782 as a celebration of the ennoblement of a prominent Catholic, a retired army officer who organised Marian pilgrimages.
Owen Burdick and his forces (the Trinity Choir refers to the Trinity Episcopal Church in Wall Street, Manhattan, not Trinity College, Cambridge) and REBEL Baroque orchestra are agile and idiomatic in this music while, among the soloists, the men are adequate but the real star in both masses is Ann Hoyt, who has the thrilling, ringing timbre of a boy soprano.