Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Missa Solemnis in C Te Deum
By 1803 it had become apparent to Joseph Haydn that he wasno longer capable of fulfilling his duties as Kapellmeister at the Esterhazycourt. Accordingly, he recommended the appointment of Mozart's former pupilHummel for the post of Concertmeister and divided his existing duties betweenHummel, Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, the Vice-Kapellmeister, and theKammer-musikdirektor Luigi Tomasini. Hummel's contract became effective from1st April 1804 and in a resolution signed by Prince Nicolaus II on 23rd June 1804his responsibilities were outlined in some detail: \... the ConcertmeisterHummel is to have the direction of cantatas, oratorios and such music pieces asdo not fall under the genre of church music, and altogether in rehearsals andproductions of his own works". The general divisions of responsibility - Fuchschurch music, Tomasini instrumental music and Hummel secular vocal musicincluding opera - were not adhered to rigorously and this created a good dealof tension within the prince's musical establishment. Although Fuchs appears asa rather pedantic individual in the historical record, it is impossible not tofeel a measure of sympathy for him, given Hummel's arrogant and inconsideratebehaviour at times. Hummel seems to have been a very casual disciplinarian andthere is no doubt that the overall standard of the Esterhazy Kapelle declinedas a result. He was summarily dismissed after a chaotic performance onChristmas Day 1808 and it was only after repeated requests to be taken backinto service that Prince Nicolaus II relented.
Prince Nicolaus II Esterhazy (1765-1833) succeeded hisfather as the reigning prince in 1794. He was a difficult man, severe anduncongenial by nature and thoroughly debauched in his private life. Althoughmusic did not occupy a central place in his life, he did have a strong andgenuine interest in church music. He began to build up his library's holdingsin this area, which had languished since the death of Haydn's predecessor,Gregor Werner, and perhaps as a consequence of the wide-sweeping church musicreforms introduced by Joseph II in 1783. More importantly, he instigated thetradition of having a new Mass performed annually on the name-day of his wife,Princess Maria Hermenegild. In the first fifteen years of his reign Fuchs,Hummel and Beethoven all wrote Masses for the occasion, in addition to Haydn'ssix magnificent settings which ended in 1802 with the Harmoniemesse. Theseperformances generally took place in September on the Princess's name-day inthe Bergkirche in Eisenstadt.
Hummel's five settings of the Mass were composed between1804 and 1808. The Mass in E flat, Op. 80, the second of Hummel's Masses to bepublished, was almost certainly composed before the Mass in B flat,
Op. 77. The D minor Mass was begun in August 1805, the MissaSolemnis in C, composed for the wedding of Princess Leopoldina Esterhazy, wascompleted in March 1806 and the final work, the Mass in D, Op. 111, theso-called Third Mass, was written in 1808. It was perhaps to this work - orconceivably the Missa Solemnis in C, which is known to have been performed inApril 1808 - that Haydn was alluding when he remarked to the composer duringHummel's visit to his home in Vienna the following month: 'Well, dear Hummel,I've already heard that you've written such a beautiful Mass and was pleasedabout it. I often said to you that you would be somebody. Continue like thisand consider that everything beautiful and good comes from above'.
Hummel's autograph score of the Missa Solemnis in C wascompleted in March 1806, three months after the Te Deum. Hummel carefully notedon the last page of the autograph that the work had been composed for thewedding of Princess Leopoldina Esterhazy [Marzo 806 / composta all'occasione /dello sposalizio di S. Alt. / la Principessa Leopoldina / d'Esterhazy; eseguitoai Aprille 808.] Hummel's reference to a performance in April 1808 is puzzling,since surely the work was performed as intended during the wedding celebrationsin 1806. It appears, after all, to have been completed in good time for theoccasion. Princess Maria Leopoldina Josepha Aloysia Esterhazy von Galantha(1788-1846), the daughter of Prince Nicolaus II and Princess Marie HermenegildEsterhazy, married Moritz Joseph Johann Baptist Viktor von Liechtenstein (1775-1819)in Eisenstadt on 13th April 1806. It must have ranked as the Society Wedding ofthe Year, given the enormous wealth, power, influence and prestige of the twofamilies. That Hummel was invited to compose the work for the occasion is aclear indication of his high professional standing with the Prince. Perhaps thefailure of Beethoven's C major Mass the following year (the Prince feltcompelled to write to a friend: "Beethoven's Mass is unbearably ridiculous anddetestable, and I am not convinced that it can ever be performed properly. I amangry and mortified") should be viewed as much in the context of Hummel'spersonal triumph in 1806 as in terms of the poor performance and challengingnature of the work. It is unlikely that Haydn attended the ceremony, given hispoor state of health, but he was fond of Princess Leopoldina and doubtless tooka close personal and professional interest in her wedding celebrations.
The composition of the Missa Solemnis seems to have causedHummel a great deal more trouble than the Te Deum. It is clear from theautograph that after Hummel completed the work, presumably in March 1806 asindicated on the score, he revised it at a later but unspecified date. Theevidence for this comes not only in the form of numerous cancellations andre-workings in the main body of the score, but also in the presence ofinterleaved pages in the hand of a copyist. The auxiliary score (theinstrumentation was too large for Hummel to write a complete system on a singlepage) largely escaped this process of revision and thus preserves the originalform of the bassoon, trumpet and timpani parts.
The Missa Solemnis is a worthy successor to the late HaydnMasses. Its brilliant orchestration, inventive and flexible choral writing andtechnical resourcefulness are the work of an experienced and gifted composer.While the work obviously owes much to the example of the late Haydn Masses itis no pale, bloodless imitation. The Kyrie is a deeply satisfying movement. TheGrave opening is at once highly dramatic and yet firmly rooted in the long anddistinguished Viennese tradition of C major festive Masses. In contrast, thequiet opening of the succeeding Allegro moderato, scored for winds alone, is anastonishingly modern touch. The choral writing is lyrical but not without itsmoments of drama; the accompaniment, which benefits enormously from Hummel'sbrilliant handling of his orchestral forces, infuses the Kyrie with tremendousdrive and verve.
The Gloria is a highly original movement. Shunning theconventional division of the Gloria into three or more interlinked sections,Hummel sets the text in a single large-scale movement unified by the use of arecurring theme which is developed as the movement unfolds. Given the length ofthe text, Hummel's preference for homophonic choral textures is hardlysurprising, but his employment of blocks of
a cappella writing is startling and with their pseudo-modalharmonies he successfully creates a sense of timelessness and even of mysterywhich is highly effective.
The Credo is another singularly impressive movement withmuch to commend it. At its heart lies a sublimely beautiful setting of the Etincarnatus (in the radiant key of A major) which slips seamlessly into theintense, concentrated Crucifixus, which is remarkable for its unstablechr