27th February 2016: Haydn and CPE Bach

Saturday 27 February 2016 7.30 pm

St Mary’s Without-the-Walls, Handbridge, Chester CH4 7HL

Haydn Nelson Mass and CPE Bach Magnificat with orchestra.

Conductor: Martin Bussey
Soprano: Cally Youdell
Alto: Joanna Harries
Tenor: Thomas Kelly
Bass: Andrew Davies

Adults £15
Students and Under 18s £5



We don’t know for sure how Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis, which can be translated “Mass in times of trouble and fear”, came to be known as Nelson Mass but, in 1798, when Haydn wrote it, Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic wars and times were certainly troubled. The news that Napoleon had been defeated in the Battle of the Nile by British Forces led by Admiral Horatio Nelson came just at the time of the first performance of this work and, in the mood of the time, it became known popularly as the Nelson Mass. In 1800 Nelson and Lady Hamilton visited the Esterházy palace and may even have heard the work performed. Haydn’s biographer H. C. Robbins Landon writes that this mass is “arguably Haydn’s greatest single composition”.


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the second surviving son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, and his first wife, Maria Barbara. The most famous and prolific of the Bach sons, he was educated with his brother Wilhelm Friedemann who was four years older, at a Lutheran seminary in Cöthen, and later in Leipzig at the Thomasschule where his father was Cantor of St. Thomas’ Church. It is said that from the age of eleven he could play all his father’s keyboard pieces at sight. He studied law at the Universities of Leipzig and Frankfurt where he financially supported himself by giving keyboard lessons and by composing for or directing public concerts. In later years he held positions of great influence in Berlin and Hamburg and was widely esteemed as a keyboard player and theorist.

It was during his Berlin years that, in 1749, he composed his only important church work, the Magnificat. It takes its text from Mary’s canticle from St. Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 1, v. 46–55) and according to a pupil at the Thomasschule it was performed in Leipzig while his father was still alive – sometime before the end of July 1750. The work contains a number of unmistakable borrowings from his father’s Magnificat: the melodies in the Fecit potentium and Deposuit are, for example, almost identical. However, the choruses take second place to the solo vocal numbers (which quantitatively, too, predominate) with their lyrical, faintly opera-like elements. Nevertheless, the final chorus, Sicut erat in principio, has a recurring theme which has often been compared with that of the Kyrie in Mozart’s Requiem, finally concluding with an extended Amen, 183 bars long.

Adults £15
Students and Under 18s £5