Haydn: Arianna a Naxos, Hob. XXVIb:2 (orchestral version); Scena di Berenice, Hob. XXIVa:10; Miseri noi, misera patria!, Hob. XXIVa:7; Solo e pensoso, Hob. XXIVb:20

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn – Arias and Cantatas
WORKS: Arianna a Naxos, Hob. XXVIb:2 (orchestral version); Scena di Berenice, Hob. XXIVa:10; Miseri noi, misera patria!, Hob. XXIVa:7; Solo e pensoso, Hob. XXIVb:20
PERFORMER: Arleen Auger (soprano); Handel and Haydn Society/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2066
Arleen Auger’s all-Haydn recital, mixing the familiar (Arianna a Naxos – performed here in an 18th-century arrangement for string orchestra – and the great Scena di Berenice) and a clutch of rarities, rightly won plaudits on its original release in 1990. With her limpid, gently rounded tone, immaculate coloratura and unfailing elegance of phrase, Auger had few rivals in this repertoire. Other singers, including Bernarda Fink (on a new Harmonia Mundi disc, reviewed last issue), have brought more anguished abandon to the soliloquy of the bereft Berenice. Auger’s classical princesses, here and in Arianna, retain a certain stoical dignity. But this is not to imply her singing is remotely chilly. While never compromising beauty and purity of line, she conjures plenty of passion for the heroines’ final outbursts, where her depth and incisiveness of tone may surprise the unwary.

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If the cantata Miseri noi sounds too serene and (in the final section) chirpy for its grim text, the fault is Haydn’s. Auger’s singing is, as ever, a model of musicality and grace. She is just as delightful in the touching Petrarch setting Solo e pensoso and a perky buffa aria bemoaning men’s faithlessness. Hogwood and his Boston period band provide neat and spirited accompaniments. A moving reminder of a supreme Classical stylist who, like her exact contemporary Lucia Popp, died far too young. Richard Wigmore