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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]
Cantata: 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 Augér (soprano)
Handel and Haydn Society/Christopher Hogwood
rec. Methuen Memorial Hall, Massachusetts, October 1988. DDD
AVIE AV 2066 [53.02]


Every time I hear a recording by Arleen Augér I can’t help but reflect what a tragic loss it was when she died in 1993 at the grievously premature age of 53. The head and shoulders portrait of her that graces the cover of this CD is particularly apposite for not only does it show her as a most attractive woman but it also suggests the grace, elegance and sophistication that is consistently in evidence on this fine CD.

Miss Augér was a splendid Haydn singer and stylist. I recall, for example, with particular pleasure her standout contribution to Simon Rattle’s EMI recording of Creation. Here, stylishly supported by Christopher Hogwood and his able period instrument band her performances delight from start to finish. There’s a great deal of very beautiful singing to savour but there’s also plenty of highly effective dramatic singing, especially in the recitatives.

The two biggest pieces are Scena di Berenice and the cantata Arianna a Naxos. In the former we are treated to a marvellous range of emotions and vocal tone colourings in the recitatives. Miss Augér conveys very effectively the wistful regret in the aria ‘Non partir, bell’idol mio’ and then is suitably fiery in the second aria, ‘Perché, se tanti siete’. However, it’s noticeable that even when she’s singing in full dramatic vein beauty of line is never sacrificed for histrionic effect.

Arianna a Naxos was never orchestrated by Haydn and the version presented here is a new edition based on a conflation of the arrangement published in Vienna long after Haydn’s death and another score, which is housed in the Library of Congress. It’s a substantial piece. In this present performance there are some passages of melting loveliness in the aria ‘Dove sei, mio bel tesoro’, where Miss Augér’s singing is full of grace mingled with pathos. She impresses equally with her urgently dramatic and very expressive account of the second recitative. The concluding aria begins most touchingly before she rises to the heights of virtuosity in the showy closing pages.

The cantata Miseri noi, misera patria! appeared to have been lost until the 1950s. It’s a good piece, consisting of one recitative and one aria. The latter is particularly engaging. I love the way Miss Augér invests the words with meaning, rolling her Rs to great effect but without undue exaggeration. I also relished the luminous woodwind playing, which is typical of the very high standard of the orchestral contribution throughout. The fiery second stanza of the aria is dispatched thrillingly.

The remaining two pieces are less substantial but no less delectable. Son pietosa, son bonina is delightfully charming while Solo e pensoso, composed in 1798, the same year that Creation was first performed, is an affectingly pensive piece.

The support from Christopher Hogwood and his players is excellent at all times. The notes, jointly authored by Mr Hogwood and H.C. Robbins Landon are as authoritative as you’d expect and all the Italian texts and English translations are provided. But with due respect to everyone else connected with this enterprise it is for the singing that one should buy this disc. In the notes reference is made to Miss Augér’s "ravishing angelic voice". Hearing this exquisite recital, who would disagree?

John Quinn

See also reviews by Jonathan Woolf and Colin Clarke


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