Gardiner Haydn

Motet ‘Insanae et vanae curae’
Symphony No.90 in C
Missa in angustiis (Nelson Mass)

Luba Orgonášová (soprano)
Wilke te Brummelstroete (mezzo-soprano)
Robert Murray (tenor)
Alastair Miles (bass)

Monteverdi Choir

English Baroque Soloists
Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 20 July, 2005
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

This well-attended late-night Prom included the remarkably affective Motet “Insanae et vanae curae”, written in 1784 but revised eleven years later with a different text, and the ‘Nelson’ Mass, so-called because it was performed for the Admiral on one of his visits to Eisenstadt, the home of Haydn’s employers, the Esterházys.

Choir and orchestra delivered a powerful, well-sculpted performance of the Motet – the text warns against “insane and idle cares”, urging instead a focus on Heavenly matters. A surprisingly full orchestral sound from Gardiner’s augmented forces lent weight to the almost vehement, though precise and crystal-clear delivery of the minor-key verse (dynamics more exaggerated in the repeat). Thus the major section glowed all the more brightly, with woodwinds and lower strings particularly prominent.

The orchestra then delivered a detailed, expressive account of Symphony No.90, the trick-ending in the development section of the finale catching the audience out both first-time-round and in the repeat, giving rise to some comic gesticulations from Gardiner. The first movement featured some nicely ornamented solos in the second subject and an understated development section; the Andante likewise had some fine solo work from the woodwinds as well as some exciting and incisive playing from all. The Menuet and Trio rightfully emphasised the dance element (a Gardiner speciality), while the final movement, joke aside, boasted trumpets and timpani.

In the Mass, as one would expect, the choral singing was first-rate; particularly effective were the detached syllables in the ‘Kyrie’ (lending further precision and clarity to an already tight ensemble), the tremendous fugue before the final ‘Amen’ of the ‘Gloria’, and the well-shaped phrasing in the ‘Sanctus’. The soloists, if not totally convincing, were nevertheless very good, their vocal timbres suiting the period-instrument orchestra. None of the voices was large, with Wilke te Brummelstroete demonstrating the most power. Luba Orgonášová, who had the lion’s share of the work, unfortunately also had the smallest voice; her diction was also not always clear, and there were some also slight intonation problems during the ‘Kyrie’. Alastair Miles likewise seemed insecure in the ‘Qui tollis’ of the ‘Credo’, but his projection, like tenor Robert Murray’s, was excellent. The orchestra could not be faulted, its playing particularly impressive during the ‘Credo’, the extended orchestral introduction of the ‘Benedictus’ and the closing moments of the ‘Agnus Dei’.

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