Our third release in the Choral Organ Accompaniment series is a delightful pair of movements from Haydn’s Mass Sancti Joannis de Deo, often known as his “Little Organ Mass”.
For our 2018 tutorial series we’re concentrating on the organ as a means of choral accompaniment. Church choral music was chosen to illustrate the accompaniment of various parts of the liturgy and to highlight some well-known anthems. The setting for these recordings, St Mary’s, Chalgrove, is a beautiful medieval church stunningly restored in 2015.
You can find out more about the choir, the organist, the church and the other five videos in our introduction to the Choral Organ Accompaniment Series.
Joseph Haydn: Kyrie and Gloria from “Little Organ Mass”
Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass” (Kleine Orgelsolomesse) was written somewhere between 1775 and 1778. Saint John of God (Sancti Joannis de Deo), to whom the mass is dedicated, was not the St. John of the gospels, but rather a prominent Catholic saint who lived in the early 1500s, based in Portugal and Spain, whose followers founded an organisation dedicated to the care of the sick and mentally ill. In Spain he is known as San Juan de Dios.
The nickname of the mass mainly stems from an organ solo in the Benedictus, and Haydn himself is said to have played the organ for the first performance. These short masses of Haydn’s would normally have involved a few instrumentalists too, but here Jonathan plays an arrangement solely for organ.
The Kyrie of the Little Organ Mass is a beautiful lyrical movement with exquisite suspensions and accented passing notes. Haydn rattles through the subsequent Gloria in record time as a result of the clever device of setting different texts in each of the four vocal parts. This really is music to lift the spirits and set you dancing on a Sunday morning!
There is in fact a longer version of the Gloria available, written by his brother Michael, so perhaps some must have felt that Haydn had been just a little too efficient in his composition for this movement.
Organ Accompaniment to “Little Organ Mass”
In Jonathan’s introduction to this video he points out that as the original scoring indeed included an organ it is a nice touch to solo any ‘organ only’ moments on some suitably clear and transparent uncoupled flute tone in order to replicate a small chamber organ.
Brighter harmonics and some upperwork may be used in the cheerful and sprightly Gloria. Try to ensure, he says, that phrasing and articulation from both singers and organist are as one as this will add to the sense of exuberance and excitement.
Watch the video of Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass” below. This is played by Jonathan Kingston on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is a very popular church organ.