Haydn, Wolf, Beethoven

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Haydn,Wolf
LABELS: BBC
WORKS: Canzonettas
PERFORMER: Thomas Allen (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBCW 1004-2
Tokens of his visits to London in the early 1790s, Haydn’s ‘Original Canzonettas’ are gems of the song repertoire in English, and the group of five with which Sir Thomas Allen begins his recital with Malcolm Martineau finds the singer on relaxed form, offering mellifluous tone and natural diction. Martineau’s accompaniments, here and throughout, are beautifully scaled to Allen’s voice and nicely characterised.

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In the Beethoven song cycle Allen combines communicative warmth with a Lieder singer’s objectivity in performances notable for their intimacy and subtle colouring. The intimacy is admirable, but in places a greater expansiveness might have worked better, and there’s not quite enough variety in the five-stanza opening song, ‘Auf dem Hügel sitz’ ich’.

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The Wolf selection begins with the three Harper songs to texts from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, in which Allen employs a subtle carrying of the tone from note to note (portamento) to convey the old man’s weariness of spirit. Other effects — an occasional use of blanched tone, the minutest deviations from pitch — are matched by Martineau in pianistic colours that suggest an inner despair. Here, and in the four Mörike settings, Wolf’s evanescent moods are finely captured. George Hall