Haydn à l'anglaise
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
The fleeting hours, ballad (duet) (after H I,74/4) [1:14]
Morning, ballad (after H I,53/2) [2:05]
Love in Return, song (after H XXVIa,16) [3:20]
Sailor's Song, canzonetta (H XXVIa,31) [2:32]
Thomas HAIGH (1769-1850)
Rondo No. 1 (after H XXVIa,31) [4:20]
Franz Joseph HAYDN
Too late, Mother, song (after H XXVIa,12) [2:38]
An old story, song (after H XXVIa,4) [2:39]
Contentment, song (after H XXVIa,20) [2:12]
The manley Heart, song (after H XXVIa,6) [4:03]
Youth and Beauty, ballad (after H I,77/4) [2:57]
The Comforts of Inconstancy, song (after H XXVIa,16) [2:43]
Sonata No. 1: Aria con Variazione [3:33]
Franz Joseph HAYDN
Werter's Sonnet, ballad (after H III,23/1) [2:25]
The Knotting Song, song (after H XXVIa,1) [5:11]
Peace and Content, ballad (after H III,41/4) [1:49]
My Mother bids me bind my Hair (A Pastoral Song), canzonetta (H XXVIa,27)
Rondo No. 3 (after H XXVIa,27) [5:22]
Franz Joseph HAYDN
Molly Carr, song (after H XXVIa,10) [3:55]
Evening, ballad (after H I,73/2) [2:57]
Life is a Dream, song (after H XXVIa,21) [3:29]
Café Mozart (Emma Kirkby (soprano), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Jenny Thomas (transverse flute), Ian Gammie (guitar), Alastair Ross (square piano))/Derek McCulloch
rec. 7 - 9 June 2011, Rycote Chapel near Thame, Oxfordshire, UK. DDD
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6174 [62:31]
One of the features of the last decades of the 18th century was the flowering of the music printing business. It took profit from the increasing popularity of music-making among the affluent parts of the middle class. As a result there was a huge demand for music to be sung and played in the intimacy of the private home or in social gatherings. Obviously music-loving citizens would like to have access to the music by the most famous masters of their time. Earlier in the 18th century it was Handel who was the hottest composer in Britain. By the end of the century he had been supplanted by Haydn – the dominant force in European music. When he was invited to visit England his friend Mozart advised against it, saying that he didn't speak the language. Haydn replied, “My language is understood everywhere”. He was referring to his music, and he was right.
The title of this disc suggests that we get here some of the music which Haydn composed during his stays in England. That is not the case. What is offered is some of the music which was printed in London, in particular by Longman & Broderip, well before Haydn's first visit to London in 1791. Two collections of German songs which Haydn had published in 1781 and 1784 were printed with either English translations of the original German text or with new texts which had little or nothing to do with the original. In addition two collections with ballads were printed which were based on melodies from Haydn's music which seemed suitable to be turned into songs. Among them are movements from symphonies and string quartets. The third category tackled by this disc involves three keyboard pieces by Thomas Haigh. His two rondos are from a much later date as they are based on two of the Canzonettas which Haydn composed in England. Thjey were printed in 1794 and 1795. The two rondos are preceded by the canzonettas on which they are based. These are the only original Haydn pieces included in the programme.
One may conclude that this is a highly original disc with repertoire probably never recorded before. From the liner-notes by Derek McCulloch one can gather that a lot of effort has been invested in this project. The connections between the arrangements and the originals are given in the booklet. There is much background information about the new texts with which Haydn's music was underlaid. This way an interesting picture is given about domestic music life in the last decades of the 18th century in London. A couple of comments need to be made.
The material isn't always performed as it was printed. The fact that some liberties have been taken in adding instrumental introductions to the songs - in particular by the flute - is fair enough. It will certainly reflect the way the material was treated at the time. The flute was a very popular instrument among amateurs. But McCulloch also decided to change the texts, for various reasons. In some cases Haydn set words which were German translations of original English poems. The English arrangers were not aware of that, and translated them back, as it were. In some cases McCulloch decided to use the original, although these had to be adapted in several cases to fit the music. In some songs he thought the adaptation of the German original wasn't good enough and made his own. In his comment on Too late, Mother (an adaptation of Die zu späte Ankunft der Mutter) he writes that "[the] original text was too risqué for William Shield [the arranger], who substituted it with a blander text An invocation to Venus". McCulloch, who apparently missed the original content, provided his own translation. In another work, Peace and Content, he decided to combine the text of one adaptation with the musical material of another.
This may make sense from a strictly musical point of view, but as those who have read previous reviews from my pen know I tend to assess recordings from a predominantly historical angle. From that perspective I am not that happy with these decisions. It may be true that - as McCulloch writes - several English texts are 'distortions' of the originals, but they give a true picture of performance practice of the late 18th century, and the way the growing market of amateur musicians was served. Why should this picture be adapted to modern taste? Nobody would ever think to do so with a picture in the National Gallery. I strongly believe that it is always better to stick to what has come down to us from history. If we don't like it, we can always decide not to perform it.
That said, I have greatly enjoyed what is offered here. The performances are stylish and creative, and the singing and playing is mostly very good. Emma Kirkby has lost nothing of her interpretational skills; nor has Rogers Covey-Crump. During his career the latter has sung many parts for a high tenor. It is notable that in particular in his high register a nervous wobble creeps in. When he has to sing forte his voice becomes a little unstable.
The use of a square piano underlines the character of the repertoire as being intended for domestic use. The involvement of a guitar reflects more the practice in Germany than in Britain, as McCulloch admits. "If that brings an à l'allemande element into proceedings, then this is not totally inappropriate, given the significant number of first and second generation Germans in the musical and cultural life of England at the end of the 18th century". That is one way to put it. The argument that the harp - which was an alternative to the keyboard among English middle class families - is absent from Café Mozart is less convincing. As far as I know there are various fine specialists of the historical harp in Britain. I can hardly believe that none of them would have liked to participate in this project.
One last item: in the canzonetta My mother bids me bind my hair, also known as A Pastoral Song, Ms Kirkby sings "'Tis sad to think the days are past" instead of "the days are gone". This way the line "I sit upon this mossy stone" fails to rhyme. What is the reasoning behind this change? In Emma Kirkby's recent recording of Haydn songs (Brilliant Classics) she sings the text as it is written and printed in the booklet.
Johan van Veen
John Sheppard also listened to this disc
An interesting picture of domestic music in London in Haydn's time, despite some modern 'corrections'.
Although Haydn first visited England in 1791 he was well known there long before that. Publishers were understandably eager to take advantage of this, and the two sets of songs that Haydn published in Vienna in 1781 and 1784 provided a suitable opportunity. The composer William Shield (1748-1829) adapted the first set in 1786 as “Twelve Ballads” and the second was adapted by an anonymous editor in 1789. Extracts from both sets are included here, with verses whose relationship with the original verse is at times remote. Samuel Arnold (1740-1802) produced a set of “Twelve Ballads” in 1787 which differ from the others in being vocal arrangements of instrumental movements. Again there are examples here, including the last movements of Symphonies Nos. 74 and 77, the second movement of Symphony No. 53, and two movements from string quartets. These alone would probably make the disc an irresistible curiosity to any Haydn enthusiast but that is guaranteed by the inclusion of three piano pieces by Thomas Haigh, a student of Haydn in 1791-2. These comprise two Rondos based on two of Haydn’s English Canzonettas, also included here, and a set of variations based loosely on the second movement of Symphony No. 53 which is also the basis for one of the Ballads. Admittedly Haigh’s pieces serve more to show by comparison just how good a composer Haydn was, but they are interesting as further proof of the latter’s impact on the English musical scene.
All of this music was essentially intended for the well-to-do domestic market and very properly it is sung and played accordingly, albeit with a technical security and panache that you would probably have been very lucky to encounter in their intended settings. The two singers make the most of the words, and whilst they are printed in the booklet their admirable diction makes this unnecessary for most of the time. Three accompanying instruments – square piano (from c1798), guitar and flute – are used, thus ensuring ample variety of tone. Admirable booklet notes by Derek McCulloch from which I have drawn much of the above information set the scene clearly for the listener.
It would be idle to regard the contents of this disc as much more than a very entertaining curiosity; something is lost in almost every case from Haydn’s originals. Nonetheless it becomes immediately clear just why the English took so enthusiastically to his music. It simply “works” so well in its new context. This is one of those discs that fills admirably a gap you probably never knew was there, and which, for me at least, is likely to be one I will return to often for sheer pleasure in its innocent music-making.
A disc I will return to often for sheer pleasure in its innocent music-making.