Haydn and Vaughan Williams - war and peace
20 June 2023
The war in Ukraine prompted conductor Bernhard Touwen to put together a topical programme of works written during times of political tension in Europe.
Missa in tempore belli- Paukenmesse
The expulsion of the Turks in 1638 was an important event for the Austrians, commemorated annually on 12 September with special masses with prominent parts for
trumpets and timpani to evoke the threat of and victory in war. In this tradition, Haydn wrote the ‘Missa in tempore belli’- ‘Mass in times of war ‘ in late 1796 as
Napoleon was besieging Austria.
Five Mystical Songs; Vaughan Williams
This musical composition was written between 1906 and 1911. The work contains four poems by the seventeenth-century poet and priest George Herbert (1593-1633). The work was first performed on 14 September 1911 with Vaughan Williams conducting. The music is described as characteristically English: seemingly familiar and ordinary, yet deep and mystical.
Dona nobis pacem (1936); Vaughan Williams
The composition, written on Bible texts and poems by Walt Whitman ( 1819-1892) who served as a nurse during the American Civil War, describe the horrors of earlier
wars against a backdrop of the prayer from the Catholic liturgy: ‘Give us peace’. This moving music is not among Vaughan Williams’ best-known works. It is, however, one of his most ambitious and personal compositions, probably fuelled by his own
experiences in WWI where he voluntarily served in the army and suffered deafness. Dona nobis pacem is an indictment of war, which he wrote at a time when the geopolitical tensions were rising in Europe and World War II was about to break out. The
work sets war drums against a muted funeral march, ending with a final optimistic message and an unanswered prayer for peace.