Our November concert brings together two very different works linked by a common, simple theme: Peace in the time of war.
Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli is by turns energetic and foreboding. The opening and closing sections of the Gloria, for example, are bright and positive, whilst the slightly forbidding start to the Agnus Dei uses timpani to echo the guns of war, giving the work its alternative name, “The Kettledrum”. Followed by a joyful Donna Nobis Pacem, the work leaves us in no doubt that Haydn intended audiences to be uplifted by his work.
Written as Austria was losing ground against French troops in Italy and Germany and feared an invasion of its own lands, this Mass was first performed in Vienna in 1796. War was clearly in the air and on the mind of the composer, but this piece is really about faith, devotion and peace – not just between countries, but within us all.
Karl Jenkins’ popular Mass, The Armed Man, was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum on its move from London to a purpose-built site in Leeds, and is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis. It is the most-performed piece in the world by a living composer.
Its appeal comes from its clear pacifist and inclusive themes, including a call to prayer from a Muezzin, and text from several sources, including Sankichi Toge, whose words after surviving the bombing of Hiroshima are particularly chilling in Jenkins’ setting. Beginning with the marching feet of the chorus, The Armed Man uses a range of choral and orchestral effects to bring the audience right into the heart of brutal combat, and the work’s final movement is a dance-like celebration of peace over war, which leads to a reflective a cappella hymn that often moves audiences to tears.