Joseph Haydn is well know for his magnificent mass settings, many of which are of substantial scale, often requiring full choir, soloists and abundant instrumental resources.
The setting we are presenting today is one of 2 settings, known to be the very first mass settings he composed: No. 1 in G major: 'Missa rorate coeli desuper' (c.1750)
Hard to believe he was ever a teenager - but at this time in his life, Joseph was employed (not just a summer job!) as a singer at St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna. However, later on he was kicked out. (maybe he was caught composing during the sermon - ha!). But lucky for us - he went on to discover for himself (with the help of a new teacher) that he loved to compose!
Just after being dismissed from St Stephens, he completed his first mass settings: Missa Brevis in G (c. 1750) Missa rorate coeli desuper and Missa Brevis in F (1750).
The setting we are presenting this morning was composed for the season of Advent, where music was required to be simpler and more reflective. Thus it is scored simply for four SATB voices, with the “church trio” of the day: two violins and bass. To make these settings even more minimalist it was customary practice of the day to have the four voice parts sing different segments of the liturgical text simultaneously. This is more apparent in the Gloria (and the Credo - not presented this morning).
In my constant search for four-voice repertoire ideas (one-on-a-part) - I didn’t care if this mass setting was originally set for Advent. It is a lovely setting that works well any time of the year. Even though Haydn scored this mass for two violins - almost all of the 2nd violin part doubles Violin 1. Thus we have four voices, violin, gamba and portativ organ.