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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Arias and Cantatas: Scene di Berenice, Hob XXIVa:10 (1795) [12’20]; Son pietosa, son bonina, Hob XXXIIb:1 (c1789) [4’30]; Arianna a Naxos, Hob XXVIb:2 (orchestral version, 1791, arr. anon) [17’59]; Solo e pensoso, Hob XXIVb:20 (1798) [7’17]; Miseri noi, misera patria!, Hob XXIVa:7 (before 1786) [10’41]
Arleen Auger (soprano)
Handel and Haydn Society/Christopher Hogwood.
Rec. Methuen Memorial Hall, Massachusetts, USA, on October 18th-20th, 1988. DDD
Texts and translations included.
AVIE AV2066 [53’02]


This is a lovely, lovely record. Collectors may be familiar with it already, as it was previously on L’Oiseau Lyre (425 476-2), and Arianna cropped up as a coupling for a ‘Nelson Mass’ on Decca in 1996 (448 983-2). It is good to see it here at medium price on the Avie label in a superb, purple-based presentation and with expert booklet notes co-authored by H. C. Robbins Landon and Christopher Hogwood. Let the playing time of 53 minutes put nobody off. There are gems and delights during that fifty minutes to brighten the stoniest of hearts.

Here we have three cantatas, separated by the insertion arias ‘Son pietosa’ and ‘Solo e pensoso’. The cantata Scena di Berenice is a magnificent expression of love’s sorrow. Auger brings a real operatic feeling to the accompanied recitatives, and a lovely legato to the aria ‘Non partir’. She can open out her voice very impressively, and the vocal cadenzas are simply superb. Just occasionally the recording seemed a tad over-reverberant.

Disillusioned love is the subject of ‘Son pietoso’ where the orchestra is at its most gentle, Auger at her most tender. It is Arianna that is the longest and most famous work here, though. In the wrong hands it can seem to have its longueurs, but there is not a trace of that here in this anonymous arrangement for voice and orchestra. The text is almost unbearably sad, of course, and this comes across in the most moving of fashions with Auger’s carefully shaded handling. She seems remarkably involved at the ‘sighting’ of Theseus and thinks nothing of spitting out her insults (‘Spergiuro, infido!’).

The beauty of the poem of ‘Solo e pensoso’ is only matched by Auger’s gorgeous vocal entry. The clarinets in the third stanza are a delightful touch. Auger’s emotions are remarkably well projected, too, in ‘Miseri noi’, and completely believable, from the misery of the initial words to the juxtaposed anger of the very next words (‘Misera patria’). The aria (‘Funesto orror di morte’) demonstrates Auger’s superb navigation of rapid semiquavers.

Very little to quibble about here, and a great deal to applaud.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

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