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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809): "Anne Hunter's Salon"

Dorothee Mields, soprano
Les Amis de Philippe

rec: Feb 18 - 21, 2013, Bremen, Radio Bremen (Sendesaal)
CPO - 777 824-2 (© 2014) (62'16")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover, track-list & booklet

A Pastoral Song (H XXVIa,27) [1]; Auld Robin Gray (H XXXIa,168)ab; Fidelity (H XXVIa,30) [1]; Gramachree (H XXXIa,13)ab; I Love My Love in Secret (H XXXIa,3)ab; Jackie and Sandy (H XXXIa,91)ab; Jenny's Bawbee (H XXXIa,252)ab; John Anderson (H XXXIa,2)ab; Langolee (H XXXIa,235)ab; Mary's Dream (H XXXIa,1)ab; O Tuneful Voice (H XXVIa,42); Sensibility (H XXXIa,173)ab; She never told her love (H XXVIa,34) [2]; The Spirit's Song (H XXVIa,41); The Boatman (H XXXIa,246)ab; The Waefu' Heart (H XXXIa,9)ab; The Wanderer (H XXVIa,32) [2]; What can young lassie do with an auld man? (H XXXIa,134)ab

Sources: [1] VI Original Canzonettas, 1794; [2] VI Original Canzonettas, Second Set, 1795

Eva Salonen, violina; Gregor Anthony, cellob; Ludger Rémy, fortepiano

Haydn's contributions to the genre of the song belong to a lesser-known part of his oeuvre. The number of songs is limited if only the songs for a solo voice and keyboard are taken into account. In the early 1780s he published two sets of twelve songs each, all on a German text. His two stays in England - 1790/91 and 1793/94 - had a decisive influence on his interest in this genre. In London he met Anne Hunter, an educated woman who organised literary parties in her salon, and was also active as a poet herself. Songs for voice and keyboard were an important genre at the time and often performed at such parties. This stimulated Haydn to write songs of his own. For some of them he made use of Anne Hunter's poems. These have become by far the best-known solo songs in his oeuvre.

Dorothee Mields and Ludger Rémy have selected six of these English canzonettas as they were called. Five of them are on texts by Anne Hunter, whereas the text of She never told her love is by Shakespeare. When Haydn arrived in England he didn't speak the language. One wonders how well he understood the texts and whether someone had translated them before he was going to set them to music. It is remarkable anyway how good these settings are.

They are more popular and more often performed than Haydn's large number of folk song settings. In a way these compositions are even more remarkable, although he didn't compose original melodies to a given text, but rather arranged melodies for violin and basso continuo or for a trio of keyboard, violin and cello. He started his work on such songs during his first stay in England; in 1792 and in 1795 they were included in two collections of the Scottish publisher William Napier. He received further melodies after he had returned to Vienna; these came from another Scottish publisher, George Thomson. The most notable aspect is that he was not aware of the texts. Some of them even didn't have a text; in some cases the text came second and was adapted to a given melody. Although the interest in folk music is often associated with the era of romanticism, it had its origins in the 18th century. One of the ideals of the Enlightenment was 'naturalness'. It explains the attraction of exotic cultures, often associated with the 'noble savage', especially those outside Europe - one can think here of Rameau's Les Indes Galantes. However, the Enlightenment also discovered the folklore of European cultures. Georg Philipp Telemann, for instance, was fascinated by the 'barbarious beauty' of Polish folk music.

However, the interest in Scottish folk music was also politically motivated. In 1707 Scotland and England became one kingdom under the name of 'Great-Britain' as a result of the Act of Union. Many Scots considered this as an attempt at assimilation, at the cost of their own identity. It encouraged representatives of Scottish culture to try to keep alive or to bring back what was considered typically Scottish. In the first half of the 18th century a number of collections of Scottish songs were published. Some of these included melodies, but others only mentioned the titles of melodies to which the texts could be sung. It is important to note that one has to distinguish between song and air: the former refers to the text, the second to a text with music. The latter was usually derived from tradition, whereas the texts were new. This explains that many songs have two titles: one refers to the text, the other to the melody to which the words were set.

Various poets of the 18th century wrote texts to be sung to traditional melodies. One of the most famous is Robert Burns (1759-1796), whose main work, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was printed in 1786 and was a resounding success. It was reprinted several times and had a strong influence on poets of the next generation. Between 1787 and 1803 he published six volumes with 600 songs in total, under the title The Scots Musical Museum. These included melodies, presented in a simple manner, with a modest basso continuo accompaniment. Five of the songs Dorothee Mields and Ludger Rémy have chosen for this recording are on texts by Burns. Other texts also date from the 18th century, by Susanna Blamire (1747-1794), John Lowe (1750-1798), Alan Ramsay (1686-1758), John Tait (1748-1817) and Sir Alexander Boswell (1775-1822).

Haydn was not the first nor the only composer who was invited to make arrangements of folk song melodies. But as he was by far the most famous composer in Europe and a celebrity in England, especially since his two lenghty visits, he was the most obvious candidate for such an undertaking. Between 1791 and 1805 he composed no fewer than 426 Scottish songs. They sold very well, and one may assume that this was not only due to the popularity of folk songs in general, but certainly also to the fact that they were from Haydn's pen. For the latest songs he was assisted by Sigismund von Neukomm, but his participation remained unknown to the publisher and the English music-lovers.

These arrangements are not that often performed and recorded, but if they are, there are some songs which are clearly favourite. Two of them are John Anderson and Jenny Bawbee, recently also recorded by Susan Hamilton and Werner Güra respectively (review). But otherwise the most obvious songs have been avoided; most of the songs are hardly known. The tempi are mostly moderate, or - more likely - the artists have preferably chosen songs which require a moderate tempo. As far as I can see they are sung complete. I can't assess to what extent Dorothee Mields' pronunciation is historically correct; the booklet doesn't mention that she has been coached in this department. But from a musical angle her performances are outstanding. In every song she hits the nail on the head and finds the right approach. The outcome is a most enjoyable and entertaining disc. That is also due to the fine contributions of the instrumentalists of Les Amis de Philippe.

The booklet includes a lengthy essay by Ludger Rémy, not just about Haydn and his songs, but also the musical and historical context. That increases the value of this production. It will have a far wider appeal than just for Haydn aficionados.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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