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Reminder: Special Music Sunday on March 15

UPDATED March 2, 2009: On Sunday, March 15 at the 10 a.m. service the St. Mary’s Adult Choir, soloists and orchestra will mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Joseph Haydn by presenting his Missa Sancti Nicolai in G (St. Nicholas Mass).

Joseph Haydn was an Austrian composer who spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Hungarian Esterházy family. He is well-known for his instrumental music, particularly the symphonies and string quartets which were new forms of composition in the Classical Period. His church music includes fourteen settings of the Latin Mass, ranging from his first small-scale masses (Missa breves) of 1749/50 to later large-scale festive mass compositions (Missa solemnis) written in the 1790s.

Haydn composed the Missa Sancti Nicolai in 1772, probably for the name day of prince Nicolaus Esterházy. It is one of Haydn’s last Missa breves, although it has a somewhat larger scale than the earlier masses. In addition to the strings, the orchestra includes 2 oboes. Also, the movements are longer than in earlier Mass settings, and there are more solo sections that alternate with the full choir.

The Missa Sancti Nicolai begins and ends with a pastoral theme that characterizes the work. In the opening movement the soloists begin the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) with a gentle melody in 6/8 time. Haydn reprises this music in the Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) that ends the work, giving the piece an overall feeling of sure confidence and hope. According to Georg August Griesinger, Haydn’s early biographer who had often conversed with him, the master’s “devotion was not of the somber, ever penitential kind, but was happy and trusting, and his church music is also of this character.”

As you continue on your Lenten journey, please join us at St. Mary’s on Sunday, March 15 for a service of musical and spiritual refreshment.

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