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CD: Crotchet AmazonUS

Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
see end of review for track listing
Elly Ameling (soprano); Jörg Demus (fortepiano)
rec. 1980
Texts enclosed
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93768 [3 CDs: 54:47 + 42:24 + 45:33]
Experience Classicsonline

Beside all his symphonies, string quartets, piano sonatas, masses and oratorios and operas Haydn also found time to compose songs. Of all his works they are probably the least known.
He published two sets of songs in 1781 and 1784 to German texts and two sets of English canzonettas a decade later. When occasionally some songs appear as part of a recital they are most likely from these latter sets.
Browsing through my rather vast collection of songs and Lieder recordings I found only a handful. Elisabeth Schumann’s The Sailor’s Song, recorded with Gerald Moore in 1945, is a classic. Anneliese Rothenberger with Günther Weissenborn sings O Tuneful Voice in German translation (O süsser Ton). Fischer-Dieskau tackles Gebet zu Gott and Zufriedenheit on the same old Seraphim anthology. On Deutsche Grammophon DF-D recorded Maggy Lauder and Heimkehr with an instrumental group. Of those four songs only Zufriedenheit is among the songs on Elly Ameling’s wide-ranging but not complete set.
Forty-eight songs by Haydn is however more than satisfactory, even for die-hard Haydn freaks. And, honestly speaking, this genre wasn’t his true forte. Haydn was a professional to his fingertips and technically as well as melodically these are fine, agreeable, entertaining songs but they are in the main rather slight. Compared to Mozart, who wasn’t a very prolific song-writer, Haydn inevitably comes out second best. Listening through the set in just two sittings was however enjoyable but when I return to the set, which I will most certainly do, I will do so a few songs at a time; as should every sensible music-lover.
Many songs are of the happy-go-lucky kind; there is nothing wrong with that. For the true Lieder aficionado there remain however grains of gold and prospective buyers should, if possible, lend an ear to those before exploring the low-carat stuff and its undemanding charms.
On the first CD, O Tuneful Voice has quite an elaborate piano introduction and is certainly a song to savour, as is the melancholy Recollection. Fidelity, in dark F minor, is unexpectedly dramatic is; likewise the dark and grief-laden Shakespeare setting She never told her love, also with a long piano introduction. These songs rank among the best. That Shakespeare setting is exquisitely sung with fine attention to nuance, but this was an Elly Ameling hallmark. The jolly Sailor’s Song is another gem and while Elisabeth Schumann in her late 50s was beginning to show her age Elly Ameling is fresh as a brook in spring. The Spirit’s Song is another dark example with threatening accompaniment.
CD 2 opens with two songs in Italian of which the first, Pensi a me si fido amante is lovely and has a melody that goes to the heart. Eine sehr gewöhnliche Geschichte is lively and humorous. Trost unglücklicher Lieb is a serious song with a musical depth that places it on a level where comparison with Schubert isn’t at all out of place.
Among the songs on CD 3 Geistliches Lied has to be pointed out as one of the songs that, after all, places Haydn as one of the important Lieder composers. As an encore we hear Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser. Elly Ameling sings it simply and without any reference to its function as a national anthem. She has always been one of my favourite Lieder singers and is at her very best here. It may be that not all the songs are masterpieces in the Schubert and Schumann mould but the care Ameling lavishes on even the slightest of them is enough to grant her a place among the giants in the Pantheon of Lieder singers. Jörg Demus’s delicate playing on the fortepiano further enhances the attractions of this issue.
These may not be essential songs when set against the real masters - Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf and Richard Strauss - but as performed here they are worth any Lieder-lover’s attention. Don’t forget that this is at Brilliant Classics’ very affordable price. The recordings are excellently engineered and the only reason for carping is that although the texts for most of the songs are included in the booklet some are omitted. Certainly Elly Ameling’s many admirers should invest in this issue and as for the Haydn completists, they must not expect these songs to be better performed.
Göran Forsling
Track listing
CD 1
1. O Tuneful Voice [4:25]
2. The Mermaid’s Song [3:19]
3. Recollection [5:40]
4. A Pastoral Song [3:27]
5. Despair [3:40]
6. Pleasing Pain [2:54]
7. Fidelity [4:05]
8. She never told her love [4:00]
9. Sailor’s Song [2:25]
10. The Wanderer [4:08]
11. Sympathy [2:57]
12. The Spirit’s Song [5:08]
13. Piercing Eyes [1:50]
14. Content [3:37]
15. The Lady’s Looking-Glass [1:21]
CD 2
1. Pensi a me sì fido amante [3:15]
2. Un tetto umil [2:41]
3. Das strickende Mädchen [2:32]
4. Cupido [2:30]
5. Der erste Kuß [2:09]
6. Eine sehr gewöhnliche Geschichte [2:04]
7. Die Verlassene [3:05]
8. Als einst mir Weibes Schönheit [2:14]
9. Der Gleichsinn [2:22]
10. An Iris [2:20]
11. An Thyrsis [2:17]
12. Trost unglücklicher Liebe [3:46]
13. Die Landlust [2:06]
14. Liebeslied [2:57]
15. Die zu späte Ankunft der Mutter [2:41]
16. Der schlaue und dienstfertige Pudel [1:33]
CD 3
1. Bald wehen uns des Frühlings Lüfte [1:35]
2. Trachten will ich nicht auf Erden [2:33]
3. Jeder meint, der Gegenstand [1:47]
4. Lachet nicht, Mädchen [2:54]
5. O liebes Mädchen, höre mich [2:52]
6. Gegenliebe [1:31]
7. Geistliches Lied [4:38]
8. Auch die Sprödeste der Schönen [1:28]
9. O fließ, ja wallend fließ in Zähren [3:42]
10. Zufriedenheit [1:50]
11. Das Leben ist ein Traum [3:47]
12. Lob der Faulheit [2:45]
13. Minna [1:34]
14. Auf meines Vaters Grab [2:36]
15. Beim Schmerz, der dieses Herz durchwühlet [2:16]
16. Abschiedslied [3:29]
17. Gott erhalte den Kaiser! [2:14]

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