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Performing Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor, MH154

Sigismund Graf Schrattenbach, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, died 16 December 1771, at the age of 73. Johann Michael Haydn received the charge to write a Requiem Mass for the Prince-Archbishop’s funeral service scheduled for January 2, while the composer was still grieving the death of his only child, Aloysia Antonia, who died just a few months earlier before reaching her first birthday. Likely inspired by the grief he felt from the loss of both his daughter and his beloved patron, Haydn completed the Requiem in C minor (Missa pro defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo), MH154, in just two weeks—the autograph score is dated “Salzburg, December 31, 1771.” Despite the swiftness of Haydn’s w0rk, his Requiem in C minor deserves to be judged as one of the finest Requiem settings of the 18th century on liturgical and expressive grounds. Careful consideration of performance aspects, particularly regarding balances, articulations, tempos, treatment of meter, and differing stylistic approaches to homophonic and polyphonic sections, helps ensure the clarity of the liturgical message as it is enlivened by compelling expressivity. This essay considers such performance aspects in light of preparations for and a performance of the Requiem in C minor by Ensemble Perihipsous and members of the Christ Church Schola, given at Christ Church Episcopal, Rochester, NY, on 10 November 2017, during the 2017 AMS Annual Meeting in Rochester. (See https://www.ensembleperihipsous.org for information on and video clips from the concert.) The performance used materials published by Carus-Verlag and edited by Charles Sherman, who passed away just a couple of months after the concert, and to whom this article and entire HAYDN issue are dedicated. Score pages with conductor markings and video clips from the performance are included to demonstrate select aspects.

Note: this article will be available 30 January 2020, honoring the second anniversary of the passing of Charles Sherman