Vol II No. 5
Feasts & Seasons

Choral and Orchestral Eucharist of Pentecost Sunday (The Nelson Mass by Haydn)

by sinetortus

Portraits respectively of Admiral Nelson by Lemuel Abbott (1798) and of Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791)

The Mass setting by Joseph Haydn was originally known as the Missa in Angustiis (in troubled times) which reflected the intense anxiety at the time of its composition, on account of the seemingly inexorable expansionism of Napoleon who  had defeated the Austrian army in four major battles, even crossing the Alps and threatening Vienna itself.

Haydn had been ordered to rest by his doctors after suffering from exhaustion in the wake of composing and conducting the premiere of his oratorio The Creation and this allowed him the time to write the Mass Setting which is considered one of the finest of his liturgical works

However, by the time of its first performance news was just coming in to Vienna of the great naval victory won under the command Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson off the shores of Egypt (which came to be known as the Battle of the Nile or Battle  of Abu Quit Bay) this led Nelson to be widely  referred to as the “Saviour of Europe” at the time.  Lord Nelson later met Haydn (and probably heard the Mass performed) and he is believed to have given him a gold watch in exchange for the pen Haydn had used when writing the short  cantata, Lines from the Battle of the Nile, which Haydn composed in honour of Lady Hamilton.

The original occasion for the composition was to mark the Saint’s Name Day of the Esterhazy Princess.

It is said that Haydn was especially impressed with the use of the D minor key in Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni (where it is used to dramatic effect in the invocation of a sense of doom) and some may hear an echo  in the rhythmic D minor opening of the Kyrie (11.30)  and the end of the Benedictus.

The original orchestration was unusual but striking and largely caused it would seem by the fact that  Prince Nicolaus Esterházy had recently dismissed his woodwind players and horns, so Haydn was able to hire only trumpets and timpani to supplement his core string ensemble, while the organ — which Haydn himself played at the premiere — has occasional solo passages in partial compensation for the missing woodwind section.  But the result is striking and highly effective.


Opening Processional Hymns Come gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove (Mendon)

Discendi, amor santo (Down Ampney)

Kyrie, Gloria,

Gospel acclamation:Alleluia Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, Mode VI

Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus, Mode I

Sermon by the Revd Dr. Jeff Hanson

Offertory Verse Confirma hoc, Deus Mode II

Offertory Anthem Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, op 8 Franz Joseph Schütky (1817–1893)

Offertory Hymn O Spirit of life (O Heiliger Geist, O heiliger Gott)

Sanctus and Benedictus

Agnus Dei (1.45)

Communion Verse : Factus est repente Mode I,

Motet: O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit,  Thomas Tallis (c 1505–1585)

Postlude: Fanfares to the Tongues of Fire : “Veni Creator Spiritus”, Larry King (1932–1990)

The Rev’d Fr. Jay C. James, Celebrant

The Rev’d Dr Jeffrey A. Hanson, Preacher

The Rev’d Fr. Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, pro-Deacon

The Choir and Orchestra of The Church of the Advent

Mark Dwyer, D.Mus, Organist & Choirmaster, Andrew Scanlon, FAGO, Associate Organist & Choirmaster

The music is by kind permission of the Rector,Wardens and Vestry of the Church of the Advent and the Director of Music, Mark Dwyer