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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn: Scottish Airs
WORKS: Scottish Works (arr. Haydn): William and Margaret; Twas at the hour of dark midnight; Mary’s Dream, etc; Piano Trio No. 43 in C, Hob. XV: 27
PERFORMER: Werner Güra (tenor), Christoph Berner (fortepiano), Julia Schröder (violin), Roel Dieltiens (cello)


Werner Güra, a tenor of proven excellence in Lieder recordings, adds here to his substantial discography of the great Austrian and German songwriters. In fact, this latest takes him and regular keyboard partner Christoph Berner in a novel direction. Their programme, skilfully assembled and delivered at a uniformly high level of vocal-instrumental accomplishment, dips into the massive bran tub of Scottish folksong settings for voice and piano-string trio that Haydn took such pleasure in making toward the end of his life.

The composer never went to Scotland, never met any of his publishers, and never saw the words: George Thomson, responsible for commissioning the vast majority of these 400-odd songs, sent him only original melodies and musical indications, not texts. And yet, as this Thomson-based assortment – neatly interspersed with the three incomparably brilliant movements of Haydn’s C major Piano Trio – makes clear, no song setting is less than delightful: several in minor keys touch echt-Haydn depths.

Brilliant Classics has already issued six volumes of the Scottish (and also Welsh) folksong material, featuring the Scots singers Lorna Anderson and Jamie MacDougall, both admirable artists obviously more at ease with sometimes rarefied dialect material. In, say, ‘The Lea-Rig’, Güra, for all his hard work, proves no match for MacDougall in crisp idiomatic enunciation. That said, and above all for the German tenor’s warmly lyrical, unfailingly cultivated melodic shaping, the whole enterprise gives continuous pleasure.


Max Loppert