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)
The Wanderer Hob.XXVI a:32 [4:10]
She Never Told Her Love Hob.XXVI a:34 [3:32]
The Spirit’s Song Hob.XXVI a:41 [5:27]
O Tuneful Voice Hob.XXVI a:42 [4:25]
Piano Sonata in C Major Hob.XVI 50 [14:42]
Arianna a Naxos Hob. XXVI b:2 [19:18]
Andante con Variazione HobXVII 6 [16:07]
Elizabeth Speiser (soprano)
John Buttrick (piano)
Recorded: 1987
JECKLIN DISCO JD 621-2 [68:22]

All the material in this recital belongs – more or less – to the years of Haydn’s visits to London, between New Year’s Day of 1791 and June 1792 and, again, between February 1794 and mid-August 1795. The earliest work here, the Cantata Arianna a Naxos was written in 1789. During Haydn’s first spell in London it was performed to great acclaim, with Haydn accompanying the castrato Gaetano Pacchierotti. The Andantino - which Haydn also referred to as a Sonata and as ‘Un piccolo divertimento’ - was written in 1793. The C Major Sonata belongs to 1794/5 and the four English songs to 1795. There is, therefore, an implicit unity to the programme. These are the works of the mature composer, the years of the ‘London’ symphonies, the opp. 71 and 74 string quartets, and some of Haydn’s finest piano trios, for example. It is no surprise, then, that there should be much outstanding music to be heard on this CD.

The Swiss label Jecklin seems to be reissuing a number of Elisabeth Speiser’s recordings. Many will surely remember Speiser as the Euridice to Janet Baker’s Orfeo in the Glyndebourne performance and recording of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (a CD is currently available on Apex), which was Dame Janet’s farewell to the operatic stage. Born in Switzerland, Speiser was an established figure on the European concert and oratorio circuit, from which she withdrew quite early. Always a thoroughly musical and intelligent performer, Speiser was not perhaps blessed with a voice of great distinctiveness or power. Here she is not helped by a recording balance which sometimes pushes her voice too far back. I suspect too that most admirers of Haydn have, in the almost twenty years since this recording was made, come to the realisation that Haydn’s vocal writing is rather better suited to accompaniment by the fortepiano than by the modern grand. A far more comfortable and natural balance is achieved on recordings such as those by Anne Sofie von Otter and Melvyn Tan (Archiv) and Catherine Bott and Melvyn Tan (Meridian) in which the fortepiano is used. Where recordings using the modern grand are concerned, the competition includes Cecilia Bartoli (with Andras Schiff in outstanding form), Janet Baker, Bernarda Fink, Arléen Auger and many more. Speiser is not quite in that class, especially as regards variety of tone and colour, but hers is an interesting performance of one Haydn’s miniature masterpieces, without ever quite achieving that compelling mixture of surprise and inevitability that the very finest performances of this cantata have.

Speiser sings the English canzonettas attractively, though the diction is not always quite as clear as it might be. Again, for all the considerable sensitivity of John Buttrick’s playing, the modern grand cannot compete with the fortepiano in, for example, the evocation of the ‘ghostly’ sounds of ‘The Spirit’s Song’ - just as some of the imitative effects in the piano part of Arianna generally work better on the earlier instrument.

In the solo piano pieces the use of the modern grand troubles one less. These mature piano pieces can be made to work very well on the modern instrument. There are, after all, fascinating recordings of the Sonata by both Richter and Gould and – a little more ‘mainstream’ – by Schiff. Buttrick’s control of dynamics is impressive and he can develop melodic lines with attractive lucidity. Both the Sonata and the marvellous Andantino are given very professional performances, eminently listenable (and re-listenable).

This an interesting programme, very competently performed; there are, though, better performances to be found elsewhere of all the pieces here.

Glyn Pursglove

 



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