Tag Archives: Joseph Haydn

Agnus Dei from Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli



Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Note: if the Agnus Dei appears to end abruptly, that is because, in the mass, the next and final section, Dona nobis pacem, follows without interruption.



Some people seem to think that the composer Joseph Haydn is almost dated and that his music is best suited for the era of waistcoats and breeches, petticoats, buckles, and silk stockings.

I beg to differ.

Listen to the Agnus Dei from Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli.

The Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War), in C major, is also known also as the Paukenmesse (kettledrum mass) due to the dramatic use of timpani. It was first performed on December 26, 1796 in the Piarist Church of Maria Treu in Vienna. The autographed manuscript contains the title “Missa in tempore belli” in Haydn’s handwriting.



From Wikipedia:

Haydn composed this mass at Eisenstadt in August 1796, at the time of Austria’s general mobilization into war. Four years into the European war that followed the French Revolution, Austrian troops were doing badly against the French in Italy and Germany, and Austria feared invasion. Reflecting the troubled mood of his time, Haydn integrated references to battle in the Benedictus and Agnus Dei movements.

Haydn was a deeply religious man, who appended the words “Praise be to God” at the end of every completed score. As Kapellmeister to the Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy, Haydn’s principal duty in the last period of his life, beginning in 1796, was the composition of an annual mass to honor the name day of Prince Nicholas’ wife, Princess Maria Hermenegild, 8 September, the birth of the Blessed Virgin. In a final flowering of his genius, he faithfully completed six magnificent masses (with increasingly larger orchestras) for this occasion. Thus, Missa in Tempore Belli was performed at the family church, the Bergkirche, at Eisenstadt on 29 September 1797. Haydn also composed his oratorio The Creation around the same time and the two great works share some of his signature vitality and tone-painting.

This piece has been long thought to express an anti-war sentiment, even though there is no explicit message in the text itself, and no clear indication from Haydn that this was his intention. What is found in the score is a very unsettled nature to the music, not normally associated with Haydn, which has led scholars to the conclusion that it is anti-war in nature. This is especially noticed in the Benedictus and Agnus Dei. During the time of the composition of the Mass, the Austrian government had issued a decree in 1796, that “no Austrian should speak of peace until the enemy is driven back to its customary borders.” …

[A] sense of anxiety and foreboding continues with ominous drumbeats and wind fanfares in the Agnus Dei, which opens with minor-key timpani strokes (hence the German nickname, Paukenmesse), perhaps fate itself, knocking seemingly from the depths. This foreshadows the timpani-catalyzed drama of the Agnus Dei in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The music brightens with trumpet fanfares, ending with an almost dance-like entreaty and celebration of peace, “Dona nobis pacem” (Give us peace).




the whole mass


posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2018