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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Arias and Cantatas

Scena di Berenice Hob.XXIVa;10 [12,20]
Cantata composra per la Signora Banti in Antigono di Pietro Metastasio

Son pietosa, son bonina Hob.XXXIIb;1 [4.30]
Aria per La Circe, ossia L’isola incantata di Pasquale Anfossi e Gottlieb Naumann

Arianna a Naxos Hob XXVIb; 2 (orchestral version) [17,59]

Solo e pensoso Hob.XXIVb: 20 [7.17]
Aria da Il Canzoniere di Francesco Petrarca (Sonetto XXVIII)

Miseri noi, misera patria! Hob.XXIVa: 7 [10.41]

Arleen Auger (soprano)
Handel and Haydn Society
Christopher Hogwood
Recorded at the Methuen Memorial Hall, Massachusetts, October 1988
AVIE AV 2066 [53.02]

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It hardly seems possible that Arleen Auger is no longer with us. This makes her legacy all the more fragile and valuable so all good thanks to Avie for returning this Haydn disc to the catalogues at reduced price. She recorded it with the august and venerable Handel and Haydn Society, the oldest such arts group in America, under the direction of Christopher Hogwood. It was taped in 1988, five years before her grievously early death at the age of fifty-three.

The repertoire suited her voice well. Though critics may have feasted on the tonal qualities of the voice and its beauty of sound and production, Auger’s was also a dramatic voice and that is noticeable here to a high degree, especially when the cantatas give her the opportunity for some florid extensions and soaring declamation. The scene from Berenice is a case in point. Drama is at the heart of it and the invitations to convey passion – wide intervals, divisions, the voice both extending low and then floridly high – reveal a musician of acute dramatic flair. She sometimes coarsens the tone fractionally in extremis – this is no vibrato-free zone – but when one hears her negotiate the strolling gait of her aria Non partir one hears anew just how and why she was so highly regarded. Her considered gravity is a joy.

Son pietosa forms an immediate contrast with its pastoral delicacy, though one not without its own degree of abrasion, and Auger proves a lyric exponent of its charms. Good string pointing from the band as well. That kind of attention to detail is apparent in the orchestral version of Arianna a Naxos where it’s clear that the vocal and string colours have been subtly matched and that the one sheds light on the other. The play of string shading on Auger’s soprano is consistently imaginative and revealing as is the tension and bite Hogwood evokes from his forces. She gauges the character and force of her recitatives and arias with quiet precision; nothing sounds forced or improperly dramatic, stylistically speaking. The Petrarch setting Solo e pensoso acts as another contrast in which we can again admire Auger’s pristine divisions and the fine contributions of the orchestral winds. Miseri noi is another cantata of considerable power and force and once again Augur’s rises to the challenges – both vocal and expressive – with great brilliance and authority. Certainly some may question the occasionally strident tone that does creep into the voice but as far as I am concerned its dramatic tension is justification enough. These are not easy works to inhabit; Auger certainly does that.

There are good notes printed on good quality paper. Translations are into English. All are worthy of the consistently elevated standard of singing and performance to be found here and more than that one cannot say.

Jonathan Woolf

The Avie Catalogue

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