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Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
VI Original Canzonettas, Hob.XXVIa: 25-30. Book 1 (1794) (Texts by Anne Hunter).
(The Mermaid's Song [3'22"]; Recollection [6'06"]; A Pastoral Song [3'24"]; Despair [7'53"]; Pleasing pain [2'13"]; Fidelity [3'51"])
VI Original Canzonettas, Hob.XXVIa: 31-36. Book 2 (1795) (Texts selected by Anne Hunter)
(Sailor's Song [2'17"]; The Wanderer [3'55"] Anne Hunter; Sympathy [3'07"] after Metastasio; She Never Told Her Love [3'07"] William Shakespeare; Piercing Eyes [1'32"]; Content [3'39"])
The Spirit's Song, Hob.XXVIa: 4 (c.1795) [5'06"] Anne Hunter     
O Tuneful Voice, Hob.XXVIa: 42 (c.1795) [4'02"] Anne Hunter
James Griffett (tenor);  Bradford Tracey (fortepiano) (Broadwood, London 1798)
No recording venue given; recorded c.1981.
from Teldec/Conifer AW6 42780
WARNER APEX 2564 61746-2 [54'09"]


Haydn's English songs were composed during his second visit to London in 1794-5; surely a dangerous time to cross the Channel?. As can be seen they received a great contribution from Anne Hunter, the wife of an eminent London surgeon, Sir John Hunter. Haydn is especially good in these settings at rendering the effects suggested by the subject matter - thus the "sea" songs have surging swelling accompaniments and introductions. The more pastoral songs have a suitably rural atmosphere. 

These songs or early lieder are given sympathetic and, where needed, rousing readings from James Griffett. Apart from this re-issue, not many are featured in the current catalogue and thus this recital is most welcome. Griffett has a light pleasing tenor voice, here most aptly and considerately accompanied by Bradford Tracey, the one complementing the other. The fortepiano adds to the performances as it is nicely muted but so much as to seem backward. It thus blends well with the voice and is unlikely by its very nature to overpower the singer. This is of importance as the performers during the late 1790s would accompany themselves; indeed it is said that Haydn himself did. Haydn, as we know, was much admired by Georgian society of its day. He moved in the upper echelons; surgeons were more respected then! Mrs. Anne Hunter continued to write until he left England for what he protested (and rightly) would be for the last time in 1795.

As can be seen, these are all re-issues from an album now nearly 24 years old, which probably accounts for the rather short measure when compared with total playing times we normally find on CDs. But don't let this put you off; this is a budget priced disc in the admirable Apex series which has impressed by both its content and sound quality. There is no mention here of any re-mastering from the original, so one must assume that adherence to the LP masters is maintained. The delightful performances do full justice to the music. Haydn was ever one to entrance and delight via his lighter and more intimate compositions. Here we have cases in point and in plenty. 

The recording is true and faithful in all respects with a good balance obtained between the soloist and the piano. The sound is clear with just the right amount of echo and "space". The booklet, again in common with others in this series, has a translation of the main subject-matter into German and French, whilst the words of the songs are reproduced in English.

This is then a collection of songs in the most charming of manners. If you wish to make acquaintance with an unusual aspect of Haydn, you will not be disappointed. The only caveat is that these days one could have wished for the disc to have offered more music.

John Portwood




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