Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


 

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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)

A selection of Scots Songs (1795)
1 The Ploughman
2 The Bonny Brucket Lassie
3 Logie of Buchan
4 My Heart's in the Highlands
5 Sleepie Bodie
6 O Can Ye Sew Cushions
7 The White Cockade
The Mermaid's Song (VI Original Canzonettas, I: 1794)
A Pastorial Song (VI Original Canzonettas, I: 1794)
A Sailor's (VI Original Canzonettas, II: 1795)
Gabriel's Recitative and Aria (The Creation, Ed. Clementi 1801)
Cantata: Arianna a Naxos (English Edition 1791)
Catherine Bott (Soprano)
Melvyn Tan (Fortepiano)
Alison Bury (Violin)
Lisa Beznosiuk (Flute)
Anthony Pleeth (Violoncello)
Frances Kelly (arp)
Recorded 1985 (Originally issued by Meridian in 1986)
MERIDIAN CDE 84495 [71.23]


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In 1790, Haydn contributed accompaniments to some of the Scots songs published by William Napier. This volume was successful enough to be followed by a second one, in which all the accompaniments were supplied by Haydn, one hundred songs in all. This recital opens with a selection of seven songs from this collection. These are some of the lesser known examples of Haydn's art and the problems in their performance are evident from the opening of the first item. The text is by Robert Burns and uses the lowland Scots dialect (Lallans) extensively. Catherine Bott sings the songs with an attempt at a suitable accent. But this rather has a tendency to come and go. English words tend to be sung in the English manner and I suspect that this falsifies some of the rhyming schemes. More seriously, singing in dialect seems to inhibit Miss Bott's attention to the text. Compared to her diction and attention to detail in the other English items on this disc, the Scots songs are disappointing. In such strophic, folk-like songs, the text is of paramount importance.

Haydn's arrangements were designed for amateurs to play and in the introduction to the published volume, players were encouraged to vary the songs and intersperse the verses with instrumental movements. Here the performers vary the accompaniments with different instrumentations and some of the songs are performed entirely in instrumental versions. This seems a mistake as I rather missed the text. Haydn's arrangements are charming but his accompaniments seem limited, as if he was constrained by the parameter of the commission. I wished that the original instructions had been taken up and the final strophe repeated instrumentally, as Haydn wrote no closing paragraphs and the songs do have a tendency to end rather suddenly. The performers give the music the style that it needs and never try to endow it with a consequence that it does not have. The results are entirely charming, and very redolent of the 18th century parlour for which the songs were intended.

The English Canzonettas, to texts by his friend Mrs Anne Hunter, were again written for amateurs. But this time, Haydn does not seem to have felt so constrained and the piano accompaniments to these strophic songs are full of imaginative touches, well taken by Melvyn Tam on the FortePiano. Catherine Bott seems more comfortable with the texts here and her diction and pointing of the text is exemplary, I only wish we had more of these delightful songs. Two of them are performed from editions of 1801 (by Corri, a pupil of Porpora). In this edition Corri has added 'correct' breathing and phrasing as exemplars to singers. And it seems that Haydn was in the habit of singing the songs himself, to his own accompaniment at his friends' homes. Now that must have been an experience.

This recital has been carefully put together as the final two items, by far the strongest pieces, are performed in early English editions. The recitative and aria from 'The Creation' is performed in an edition from 1801 by Muzio Clementi, which featured an "improved translation" which is subtly different from the one we use today. Melvyn Tan proves a skilful accompanist, drawing colours out of the Fortepiano. Catherine Bott's plangent tones are well matched to the instrument.

The final item on the disc is the cantata, 'Arianna a Naxos', performed in an early English edition from 1791. This is a much recorded piece and listeners can choose from performances by such luminaries as Janet Baker, Cecilia Bartoli (with András Schiff accompanying) and Anne Sofie von Otter (with Melvyn Tan again, on Fortepiano). Anne Sofie von Otter and Melvyn Tan take nearly the same time as Catherine Bott on this record. But von Otter sings with a greater sense of line and care over its shapeliness. Von Otter's attention to detail is admirable and Arianna's bewildering mixture of emotions is vividly characterised with a wide variety of tone. Catherine Bott's plangent performance is a little more generalised and does not use a such wide variety of tone colour. But within its own parameters, her performance is lovely and it is perhaps unfair to compare the young Catherine Bott recorded in 1985 with recent recordings of mature artists such as von Otter and Bartoli. Bartoli and Schiff take three minutes longer and their performance is far more romantic then either von Otter and Tan or Bott and Tan. That said, Schiff's accompaniment is positively luminous and Bartoli's vivid performance has the inestimable advantage that she sings in her own language. But 'Arianna' is the only Hadyn on Bartoli's disc.

Generally, on the alternative discs 'Arianna a Naxos' is available only in the context of a mixed recital. (Von Otter does sing some of the Haydn Canzonettas, but here her attention to artistic detail is almost too much for the songs and I far prefer Catherine Bott's charming simplicity.) On this recording Bott and Tan have prefixed 'Arianna' by a fascinating group of items from Haydn's London period. Haydn himself accompanied the castrato Pacchierotti in a performance of ‘Arianna’ in London in 1791. So, whilst Bott’s ‘Arianna a Naxos’ might not be the first choice for the library, taken as a whole this recital is well worth investigating.

A great deal of research and scholarship has gone into this recording, but it wears its scholarship lightly. The recital is structured so that one could imagine oneself at an 18th century London salon; simpler items performed, perhaps, by local luminaries acting as a preliminary to the cantata featuring the great castrato. Perhaps this is being too fantastical, but Catherine Bott, Melvyn Tan and the other instrumentalists are to be commended for putting together a charming recital which keeps the feel of performance in the parlour or salon.

Robert Hugill



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