When I told Carl I was going to start writing about the Lord Nelson Mass, he protested. “But it’s too early!” That’s the major work he is planning for his final service at LCH for the Ordinary. Hey, Carl, if it’s too early, how is it that you started studying the score the very next day after our Bach B-Minor performance?!
In fact, the planning of The Last Service started years ago, when we were in England in 2003 and happened to be in Cambridge for music director Christopher Robinson‘s last service at St. John’s College. He programmed the Lord Nelson on that day as the Ordinary, and Carl and I attended the service, along with our musician friends Dana Marsh and Edith Ho. As it turned out, the soprano soloist who was scheduled to sing the work got sick and a last-minute replacement filled in. It was a soprano Dana knew from California! Small world!
At that time, a seed was planted and Carl got the idea that he wanted to do the Lord Nelson for his final service, which will happen on Sunday, August 21st. For those of you who don’t know about the work, its real name is Missa in Angustiis (Mass for troubled times). Some consider it Haydn’s greatest work.
So why is it called the Lord Nelson Mass? When Haydn finished this composition, the world was at war. Napoleon had won four battles with Austria and Vienna was threatened. Napoleon invaded Egpyt in May of 1798 cutting off trade routes. At the Mass’s first performance on September 15, 1798, the news was that Napoleon had just been defeated in the Battle of the Nile, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson, and gradually the composition acquired its nickname. Lord Nelson visited Esterhazy Palace in Vienna in 1800 and may have heard the Mass for himself.
The Lord Nelson Mass was programmed at the very first Abendmusiken concert at LCH on October 8, 1992. Vicki Gorman was the soprano soloist at that performance and will return to Honolulu to reprise the part.