Spiritual Warfare has been a theme in a number of my posts recently, and for good reason: while the struggle “against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12) is always with us, it has been causing more than a few ruffles on the surface of the visible world of late. We can see this eternal struggle reflected not only in the increasing intensity of the Culture War in the secular sphere but, sadly, within the Church as well.
What better Music Monday piece, then, than Haydn’s Mass in Time of War (Missa in Tempore Belli)? And what better selection than the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, whom we see in the Book of Revelation as the Victor in the final battle of the Cosmic War.
It was indeed a time of war when Haydn composed the Missa in Tempore Belli in 1796. His homeland Austria (at the time part of the Holy Roman Empire) had been at war with revolutionary France, and had been losing. A French invasion seemed imminent. We can hear the turbulence and uncertainty of the times reflected in Haydn’s music. This mass is also called the Paukenmesse (the “Kettle Drum Mass”) because it features a much more extensive use of percussion than was customary at the time. In addition to military-sounding drumming, the horns in the Agnus Dei call to mind battle trumpets.
Franz Joseph Haydn himself was a supremely talented and prolific composer, a gifted teacher (he numbered both Mozart and Beethoven among his pupils, the former also becoming a close friend), a great guy to hang out with, and a joyfully devout Catholic. This 2014 article in Catholic World Report about the undeserved neglect of this magnificent Man of Music is a great brief introduction to Haydn’s work and life.
In the video below I pair a recording by the Bavarian Broadcasting Choir and Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) with a representation of the Book of Revelation’s Lamb of God painted on the ceiling of the Union Church in Idstein, Germany.
Haydn: Missa in tempore belli “Paukenmesse” – Agnus Dei · Judith Blegen · Brigitte Fassbaender · Claes-Håkon Ahnsjö · Hans Sotin · Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks · Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks · Leonard Bernstein
Haydn: Mass in C “Missa in Tempore Belli”
℗ 1985 Universal International Music B.V.
Released on: 1986-06-03
Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
Ceiling painting from the Unionskirche, Idstein, Book of Revelation,”Worthy is the Lamb”, showing the Lamb, God the Father, an angel, the four Evangelists as symbolic animals, a row of angels with harps, ca. 1670.
Photo by Gerda Arendt