Caryl Clark

About the Participants

Caryl Clark


Caryl Clark is Associate Professor of Music History and Culture at the University of Toronto.  Her research reflects interests in opera and orientalism, gender and performance, and the politics of musical reception.  In partnership with the Canadian Opera Company, she co-organizes the “Opera Exchange,” a series of symposia dedicated to the interdisciplinary investigation of opera.  She edited the Cambridge Companion to Haydn (2005), and guest co-edited a special issue of the Opera Quarterly devoted to Wagner’s Ring Cycle (2007). Cambridge University Press will publish her book, Haydn’s Jews: Representation and Reception on the Operatic Stage, in September 2009.

Conference Paper: “Haydn’s Conversion Masses”

  • Abstract:
    At commemorative celebrations in Vienna in May 1909, Alfred Schnerich observed that several of Haydn’s Mass settings contained textual omissions.  He noted that in four Mass settings dating from different periods of the composer’s long compositional career, Haydn omitted the crucial line: “Et unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei” / “and [I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of God.”  Haydn was not alone in omitting lines of text from settings of the Mass; indeed, similar omissions are found in the works of Abbé Vogler, Eybler, and Schubert.  Typically, textual omissions in settings of the Mass Ordinary by Haydn have been attributed to memory lapses.  H. C. Robbins Landon refers to Haydn’s “faulty memory when writing the words down for the Mass by heart,” later observing that “Haydn was a faithful Catholic and he thought he knew his Mass text by heart, which, on the whole, he did; but now and then a long part of the dogma would escape him.”(C&W iv).  When performing works with defective or deficient Credos, Landon recommends using the amendments and revised settings devised by Schnerich.

    In this paper I build on later work by two established scholars:  1) Walther Dürr, who has recently concluded that Schubert’s textual indiscretions were deliberate, and not errors of omission (Trinity College Dublin conference 2003); and 2) Elaine Sisman, who has advanced the concept of “multiple audiences” for Haydn’s music in her contribution to the Cambridge Companion to Haydn (2005).  Arguing that Haydn’s omissions were deliberate, I contend that among the many audiences Haydn imagined for his Masses were non-believers and catechumens, i.e., congregants in the process of converting to Catholicism.  Among those who heard his masses in the churches operated by the Barmherzige Brüder in Vienna and Eisenstadt, the parish church of St. Martin located with the old walled town of Eisenstadt, and the newer Bergkirche located in the Oberberg district of the town, were some who were not yet full members of the Catholic faith, and as I argue, the composer made accommodations for those listeners in four settings of the Mass: Missa brevis in F major (c. 1749), the Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (c.1775), the Missa in angustiis commonly referred to as the Nelsonmesse (1798), and the Theresienmesse (1799). 

    My close reading of the circumstances surrounding the composition of the Missa St. Joannis de Deo, a missa brevis honoring the patron saint of the Barmherzige Brüder (Brothers Hospitalers), suggests that Haydn was sensitive to the needs of both the clergy and the congregants to whom they ministered.  Haydn’s use of brevior practices disguises the textual omission in the Credo by declaiming different lines of text simultaneously.  The resulting polytextuality produces the aural equivalent of Mauscheln, a term associated with the mixture of language, dialects and accent associated with Yiddish or Jew-speak.  In accommodating the needs of transitioning believers, Haydn demonstrates his understanding of the important role played by conversionary ministry in the history of the church.