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Joseph (Josef) Messner (1893-1969)
















On Remington R-199-121 excerpts from "The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ" (Haydn) and from "Stabat Mater" (Rossini) conducted by Joseph Messner were coupled with "Libera me" from Verdi's Requiem, conducted by Gustav Koslik.










Hilde Gueden, early 1950s.










Picture taken from an old Dutch encyclopedia.










Excerpts from the Messner recordings and of Verdi's Requiem were released on Plymouth P-12-90.

































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Joseph Messner was a deep religious man. He was ordained a priest in 1916, studied composition and organ at the Munich Academy of Music (Münchener Akademie für Tonkunst) to become an organist, a prolific composer and eventually a famous conductor of mostly religious works.


Joseph Messner (Josef, as printed on the Remington boxes with Mozart's Requiem and Haydn's Seven Last Words) was one of the great conductors to lead the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra and the Salzburg Dome Choir (Salzburger Domchor) in several series of religious concerts, and this for more than twenty years, starting in 1945. Several of Messner's early performances appeared on Remington Records of which Marcel Prawy was the producer in Vienna and Salzburg. However, Prawy never mentions the name of Joseph Messner in his book "Marcel Prawy talks about his life" (Marcel Prawy erzählt aus seinem Leben).

Paul Sacher as portrayed on Philips S 04003 L with works of J.S. Bach.

NOTE: When in a letter dated September 25, 1950, Prawy asks conductor Paul Sacher to make recordings for the Remington label, Prawy writes that "we have an exclusive contract with the Mozarteum Orchestra and the Viennese Tonkünstler Orchestra", an argument to persuade Paul Sacher. And it is not clear if Prawy wanted Sacher to conduct the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra in specific works for Remington Records. Despite Prawy's bid, Paul Sacher never recorded for Remington Records.

It is probable that the recordings of the great works by Mozart, Haydn, Handel and Rossini conducted by Joseph Messner, were not supervised by Prawy himself, or just in a few instances. He may have bought recordings from the organization of the Salzburg Mozarteum Festival, or even directly from the OR, Österreichischer Rundfunk (Austrian Public Broadcasting Service, later to be named ORF). The archive of this company could show more details.

Right after the Annexation (Anschluss) of Austria by Germany on March 12, 1938, Joseph Messner had been degraded by the Nazis and was not allowed to perform any longer.
However, there is mention of a concert with Joseph Messner conducting the Mozarteum Orchestra during World War Two. It is a concert under the auspices of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party) held on August 24, 1942, when Messner's "Scherzo and Three Songs for Baritone and Orchestra" with the title: "Schicksal der Deutschen" (Fate of the Germans), on poems by Heinrich Lersch, were performed. Soloist in the songs entitled "Fahneneid", "Grabschrift" and "Bekenntnis" (Oath to the Flag, Epitaph, Declared belief) was bariton Hans Herbert Fiedler. The other conductor of the program was Willem Van Hoogstraten (former husband of pianist Elly Ney). That was about the time when Willem Mengelberg conducted two concerts at the Salzburg Festival (one concert with pianist Cor de Groot in Beethoven's Emperor Concerto Op. 73).

The fact that Messner conducted then and there when the Nazis were in charge, gave many a critic the idea that Messner would have been on the wrong side, politically, which, apparently, was a false accusation. The poems could be interpreted in more than one way. When in 1945 the Austrian cultural life and also the Salzburg community should make a fresh start, the Americans choose Joseph Messner to conduct the first concert of the Salzburg Festival (Salzburger Festspiele). Could well be that they did not know about the 1942 event. Or that they were told but did not adhere any significance to it.

Joseph Messner in the nineteen fifties in a characteristic pose with score and baton. Picture courtesy Verband der Südtiroler Musikkapellen (

According to the excellent web site of the Salzburger Festspiele, Joseph Messner's repertory was extensive and did not just include Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Giacomo Rossini, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, and Anton Bruckner. On July 7, 1945, he led the first concert of the Mozarteum Orchestra after the war, performing compositions by Bizet, Bruch and Tchaikovsky

On August 31 of that same year he conducted for the first time the performance of Mozart's Requiem K 626, in the Large Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum. Singers were Gertrude Erhardt (Soprano), Erna Kreuzer (Contralto), Julius Patzak (Tenor), Ludwig Weber (Bass). The organist was Anton Dawidowicz. They performed together with the Salzburger Domchor and Mozarteum Orchestra.

The later performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass with Hilde Gueden, Soprano; Julius Patzak, Tenor; Rosette Anday, Contralto; Josef Greindl, Bass; conducted by Joseph Messner on August 27, 1950, was issued on Remington Records. Warren DeMotte said about the recording: 'Messner's performance is impressively lofty, but on two 12" disks.'

NOTE: From 1933 on up to and including World War Two, the Nazi influence in the arts was not only restricted to the celebration of Richard Wagner at Bayreuth, and in the condemnation and prohibition of modernistic, so called degenerated art ("Entartete Kunst, entartete Musik"). Also books and manuscripts were edited, complete encyclopedias were rewritten and entries in existing encyclopedias were omitted or changed. Also the text of Mozart's Requiem Mass had to suffer.
It was Polydor (originally the German division of The Gramophone Company named "Deutsche Grammophon") that had made a recording of Mozart's Requiem Mass KV 626 in 1941 with singers Tilla Briem (Soprano), Gertrude Freimuth (Contralto), Walter Ludwig (Tenor), and Fred Drissen (Bass). Used was an alternate Nazi-text (according to The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music). The New York Times later wrote: "All references to the Jewish roots of Christianity are purged." 'Quam olim Abrahae promisisti' ('As was promised to Abraham') becomes 'Quam olim homini promisisti' ('As was promised to man'). 'Deus in Sion' ('God in Zion') becomes 'Deus in coelis' ('God in heaven')."
The performance was of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bruno Kittel Choir (Bruno Kittelscher Chor), all conducted by Bruno Kittel. Polydor PD-67731/9 (9 x 12" shellac records).

Mozart did not finish his Requiem Mass. After he had died, the work was completed by his alleged pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayer. That was the version Joseph Messner conducted according to the liner notes of the Remington box edition, which - I presume - were written by well known critic and music writer of Opera News John W. Freeman:

REQUIEM - MOZART (1756-1791)

The generally accepted version of the story of the Mozart D Minor Mass has it that in July 1791 Mozart received an unknown visitor clothed completely in black. This visitor refused to identify himself and said that the person whom he represented wished Mozart to write a Requiem Mass. He asked Mozart to name his fee and to tell him approximately how long it would take him to complete the work. A few days later the mysterious messenger returned with the advance requested by Mozart. He insinuated that his master thought Mozart's price exceedingly low and that if the Requiem were finished on time there would undoubtedly be a large bonus forthcoming.

Mozart, who unknowingly had six months of life remaining, felt a strong premonition about this work. He was suffering physically and the composition added strange mental tortures. He had the delusion that the strange messenger clothed in black was a messenger of death and that he was writing a Requiem for himself. Nevertheless Mozart started the composition immediately. During the next few months work was halted by prior commitments on "The Magic Flute" production. Mozart, who normally wrote very rapidly, found it increasingly difficult to get the Mass under way. Undoubtedly this was caused by the strange hallucinations he had about his work. Each time he worked steadily on the composition there was a noticeable decline in his health, and whenever he put the work aside and turned to other matters his physical condition improved. Almost before Mozart was aware of it he had passed the deadline he had promised the strange messenger. Finally in a last burst of effort to complete the piece, his powers ebbed until in December 1791 the master passed away leaving the manuscript unfinished.

After his death his wife Constanze approached a number of his friends and asked them to complete the work using Mozart's notes. After several people had refused she turned to Süssmayer, Mozart's beloved pupil, to complete the work. Süssmayer, who had been a very close friend and confidant of the master, had heard Mozart play parts of the composition many times during the last six months of his life. The story is even told that as he was dying, Mozart gave his beloved pupil instructions as to how the mass should be finished.
Using Mozart's style which he knew so well, and having complete access to his notes, Süssmayer completed the work. Years later he said that he recopied the whole, destroying the original manuscript so that the patron who had ordered the Requiem would not notice a difference in the handwriting. Finally the messenger called for the completed manuscript which Constanze delivered with what must have been a sigh of relief.

Sometime later the mystery of the strange patron was disclosed when the Requiem Mass was performed privately. The work had been commissioned by a Count von Wallsegg, a well-known patron of music who had a private orchestra under his permanent employ. The Count was noted for frequently commissioning work, recopying them in his own hand, and having them performed as his own compositions. This was apparently his idea in commissioning the Requiem which he planned to have performed in the memory of his wife.
The whole story of the Requiem will never be known unless the original manuscript, supposedly destroyed by Süssmayer, should be discovered in some long forgotten archive. The D Minor Requiem however, still remains one of the world's greatest musical works.
The Requiem received its first performance at Jahn's Hall, Vienna in 1792. - John W. Freeman

Modern sources mention that the Requiem did not receive its first performance in 1792, but one year later on December 14, 1793, at Wiener Neustadt.
Constanze first asked Joseph Eybler (1765-1845), who had studied composition with Mozart, to finish the instrumentation. But when he was asked to complete sections and to write missing parts to be added, he refused to do so. Enter Franz Xaver Süssmayer (1763-1803). He wrote the instrumentation and composed the Lacrymosa (after bar 8), and completed the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. There are many weak instances in Süssmayer's score and the Sanctus really shows his poor style of instrumentation and composing. Despite all the criticism regarding the skill of Franz Xaver Süssmayer, it is thanks to him that the Requiem, Mozart's last composition, was completed and because of that it found the prominent position in Mozart's oeuvre, and was not lost but can be heard today in full. Although many may argue that if Süssmayer had not completed it, someone else might have done it sometime later, provided all of the original pages with Mozart's handwriting had been available.

Joseph Messner (February 27, 1893 - February 23, 1969), was born in Schwaz, Austria, not far from Innsbruck. He was the second son of Jakob Messner and Maria Speckbacher. In 1923 he was appointed organist and in 1926 "Kapellmeister" at the Dom church in Salzburg. And since 1932 he conducted the so called Dome Concerts of the Salzburg Festival (Salzburger Festspiele).
Messner was not only a devoted conductor and choir leader. As an organist he gave concerts in many a European city. Furthermore he composed over two hundred works of all kinds and forms: church music, secular music, choral works, songs, concertos, symphonies and chamber music. He wrote "Missa poëtica" on texts of Ilse von Stach; "Zwei Marienlegenden" (Two Mary Legends); a Symphony for organ; "Esther", a so called church opera; he composed the opera "Hadassa"; and also violin concertos and piano music. He wrote the stage music for "Jedermann" (Everyman, Elckerlyc), the play about "The Dying of the Rich Man", written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

Each and every year he was present at the Festival. He conducted for the last time in Salzburg on August 13, 1967, and that, again, was the performance of Mozart's Requiem K 626. But now the singers were Laurence Dutoit (Soprano), Friederike Baumgartner (Contralto), Lorenz Fehenberger (Tenor), and Max Pröbstl (Bass). The organist was Gerhard Zukriegel. About one and a half year later, after a full life and 45 years of devoted music making, Joseph Messner passed away, on February 23, 1969, in St. Jakob am Thurn, a short distance from Salzburg.

The only recording of Joseph Messner in the era of the 78 RPM shellac records, is a 12 inch disc: His Master's Voice DB 5054. He conducts an orchestra accompanying Eidé Noréna singing "Care Selve" from Atalanta (Georg Friedrich Handel). This recording of Noréna (=Andre Karoline Hansen) was probably made in 1939 when she sang during the Salzburg Festival. In "The New Guide to Recorded Music" (1950) Irving Kolodin wrote: "All singers save Noréna use an English version of the Italian text, which was one more reason for retaining a preference for her version (...). However, Noréna, whose singing of opera has not often moved me, is an inspired artist on this disk." Maybe Joseph Messner's conducting had an inspiring influence.

The recording of Joseph Messner conducting Mozart's Requiem on August 9, 1931, is not listed in "The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music" of 1942, nor in the 1948 edition. The performance which was transferred to CD by Orfeo could have been a live recording from the Austrian Broadcasting Service. But on Satyr 78 RPM Blog we get the full information not only about this recording consisting of 7 discs but also about more ChristSchall 78 RPM records and the possibility to download recordings. ChristSchall means Sound of Christ or Sound for Christ. (Link derived from Wayback Machine.)
In the Mozart recording singers are Hanna Seebach-Ziegler (Soprano), Jella von Braun-Fernwald (Contralto), Hermann Gallos (Tenor), Richard Mayr (Bass), the Salzburger Domchor and the Orchestra of the Dom-Musik-Verein, and the (prewar) Mozarteum Orchestra.

There is a recording of Orazio Benevoli's "Messe solennelle pour 53 voix et hymne pour la consécration de la cathédrale de Salzbourg" (Solemn mass for 53 voices and hymn for the consecration of the Salzburg Cathedral; Festmesse und Hymnus zur Einweihung des Domes in Salzburg 1628 ) written in 1628, conducted by Joseph Messner, on Philips A 00622/3 R (2x 10" LP set) from 1954 coupled with Messner's Hymn to Saint Ruper "plaudite timpana". The recordings were made in 1952. Benevoli's Mess appeared earlier on A 00470 L, issued in the US on Epic LC 3035 in April 1954 (without the hymn); released in Great Britain in August 1955 on Philips ABR 4015/6, two 10 inch discs. The performers are the Salzburger Dom Choir, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Franz Sauer, organ. Data taken from John Hunt Discographies "Philips Minigroove", second extended version, 2008, from Gramophone Classical Record Catalogue, and from Schwann editions.

The recordings of Joseph Messner on the Remington label:

R-199-66/2 - Josef Haydn - The Seven Last Words of Christ - Hilde Gueden, Soprano; Clara Ölschläger, Contralto; Julius Patzak, Tenor; Hans Braun, Baritone; Ernst Reichert, Harpsichord; The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, The Salzburg Dome Choir. Joseph Messner, Conductor. This is the recording of the live performance on July 30, 1950 in the Aula Academica. Released in May 1952. In France issued on Concerteum Alb.284.

The Remington recording was made in the Mozart Hall, Vienna, January 1952. For almost ten years Remington R-199-66/2 was the only available recording of the oratorio untill in 1962 the Westminster disc with reference 17006 became availble with Virginia Babikian (Soprano), Eunice Alberts (Alto), John van Kesteren (Tenor), Ina Dressel (Soprano), Otto Wiener (Bass), Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Vienna Academy Choir, and Hermann Scherchen (Conductor).

No explanatory notes about the work or the recording were encountered by me in the box of either the Remington or the Concerteum release. The Seven Last Words of Our Redeemer are The seven last words of our Redeemer on the Cross

1. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
2 Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
3. Woman! Behold, this is your son! Son behold, this is your mother!
4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
5. I thirst.
6. It is accomplished.
7. Father, into your hands I command my soul.

C.G. Burke in High Fidelity Magazine, March-April edition of 1953
wrote an extensive review of the Remington/Messner recording. His review shows that he was impressed by the work and the performance despite technical shortcomings of the recording:

This is the final setting of a tragedy originally given to orchestra alone. We know it best in the meanwhile arrangement for string quartet, and music lovers now have a chance to decide which of the later settings is more moving. Certainlt Introduction and cataclysm are mightier when intrusted to an orchestra as they are in the oratorio (or cantata) form; but the Words themselves are perhaps best understood when wordless.
- The Remington and only edition records a public and exceptional performance of deep devotion and sound musicianshipfrom conductor and voices, and of sometging less certain from the orchestra, which has a rough string tone and is unfavorably placed in relation to the chorus. The soloists are in good form and the choral singing is remarkable. The engineers have unusual success with the mass of voices, which billow sonorously with a powerful cathedral-effect and without opacity. We are enveloped with a sound which is yet analyzable and corporeal, which arrives with unity although it arrives from everywhere. The sound is German, and the vernacular is more humanly significant then the Vulgate, the homely words more moving than the ceremonial.
- Few extrinsic noises for a public performance, and non acute. Bass needs extraiordinary reduction, and there are no printed notes, no text, but recommended for its impressive performance and imposing choral sound.
C.G. Burke (High Fidelity Magazine, March-April, 1953)

And in the September 1954 edition he writes: "The Seven Last Words in its final vocal setting (Remington 199-66) is compulsive in spite of the minor damage undergone in recording a public performance." - C.G. Burke (High Fidelity Magazine, September 1954)

Warren DeMotte in "The Long Playing Record Guide" (1955) said about The Seven Last Words of Christ on Remington: "The oratorio is available in one recording. Messner leads a performance of solid virtues and sensible pacing, in a surprisingly open recording. However, there is little tension, and this may be inherent in the oratorio version." - Warren DeMotte (The Long Playing Record Guide, 1955)

R-199-69/3 - Georg Frederick Handel - The Messiah (this is the so-called Mozart-Hiller version for which Mozart added to the instrumentation, made cuts and made a few changes). Performers are Anneliese Kupper, Soprano; Rosette Anday, Contralto; Lorenz Fehenberger, Tenor; Josef Greindl, Bass; The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, The Salzburg Dome Choir. Joseph Messner, Conductor. Recorded at the Salzburg Festival Performance in the Aula Academica on August 28, 1949. Released in May 1952. In France issued on Concerteum Alb.205.

Joseph Messner conducting Handel's "Le messie" (Messiah) on Concerteum.
Georg Frederick Handel:
Messiah, an Oratorio.
Excerpts from Handel's Messiah conducted by Joseph Messner were released in Remington's Music Plus Series with a comment by Sigmund Spaeth - MP-100-18.

At left the French release on the Concerteum label.

R-199-96/2 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem - Hilde Gueden, Soprano; Julius Patzak, Tenor; Rosette Anday, Contralto; Josef Greindl, Bass; The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, The Salzburg Dome Choir. Joseph Messner, Conductor. Recorded at the Salzburg Festival Performance in the Aula Academica on August 27, 1950. First listed in the Schwann edition of July 1952. In France released on Concerteum CR 221.

C.G. Burke, in the 4th instalment of his discography of recordings of works by Mozart, "Mozart on microgroove" (High Fidelity November-December 1953), comments on the live performance on Remington:

For Remington the Salzburg specialist Prof. Messner has produced a beautiful compromise suitable for churches, wherein a devout acknowledgement of God's power ascends over the human revolt of a dying man against the omnipotence that ends him.. Splendid soloists and confident, expertise in the performance carried by a recording in which good and bad battle to our exasperation. The violins cut and the bass is inflated for service on the poorest phonographs. There is an oppressive low frequency background noise more distracting than the occasional coughs of the audience at this public performance. Withal, direct and tonal phalanxes -. On the most resourceful phonographs the sound can be disciplined to impress us and on bad phonographs the sound has a meretricious effectiveness. Owners of middling, respectable apparatus should be wary of this recording. - G.C. Burke, High Fidelity, November-December, 1953

R-199-111/2 - Giacomo Rossini - Stabat Mater - Irmgard Seefried, Soprano; Rosette Anday, Contralto; Lorenz Fehenberger, Tenor; Ferdinand Franz, Bass; The Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, The Salzburg Dome Choir. Joseph Messner, Conductor. Recorded at the Salzburg Festival Performance in the Aula Academica on August 7, 1949. Released in the course of 1953. In France released on Concerteum CR 291. Critic Warren DeMotte wrote: "Messner is devotional and tones down the operatic aspect of the score."

In the US two more recordings of Joseph Messner conducting the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra appeared on the Festival label:
Bruckner's Te Deum with Stefanie Holeschovsky (soprano), Fanny Elsta (alto), Lorenz Fehenberger (tenor), Georg Hann (bass) and the Chorus and Orchestra of the 1949 Salzburg Festival on Festival 101. And Coronation Mass (Mozart) with Hilde Zadek, soprano; Eleanore Gifford, contralto; Julius Patzak, tenor; Hans Braun, bass on Festival 100. Festival Records Inc. was located at 125 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, Mass. The label existed from 1950 till 1956.

References for Mozart's Requiem: Fritz Hennenberg "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart", Verlag Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig 1976. There was an article in the New York Times about the purged text of Mozart's Requiem in the Third Reich. This is no longer available online. Some details were taken from the liner notes by Alfred Beaujean written for the Philips edition of Mozart's Sacred Music conducted by Colin Davis.

References for Joseph Messner's appearances in Salzburg are from the web site of The Salzburger Festspiele.

Rudolf A. Bruil, text and research. Page first published on the Internet on December 13, 2007.

On "Satyr 78 RPM Blog" - the link of this blog is derived from Wayback Machine - a blog about various artists and labels from the 78 RPM era, and maintained by 'Satyr' since 2010, there is an interesting article about recordings which appeared on the Christschall label in the 1930s, and among those are recordings of conductor Joseph Messner. You will need to translate the text.
Christschall is not mentioned in the 1942 and 1948 editions of Gramophone Encyclopedia of Recorded Music. Apparently it was a private label, or it existed for a short time only, or was a regional affair.




Copyright 1995-2008 by Rudolf A. Bruil