Haydn: Il ritorno di Tobia

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn
WORKS: Il ritorno di Tobia
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi, Sophie Karthäuser (soprano), Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano), Andres J Dahlin (tenor), Nikolay Borchev (bass); Cologne Vocal Ensemble; Capella Augustina/Andreas Spering
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570300-02

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Haydn’s two great oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, date from the end of his long career, but there’s a further example, the Italian-language work recorded here, written 25 years earlier. The Return of Tobias (1775) tells the Biblical story of a blind man miraculously cured when his long-absent son returns to heal him. Haydn’s late oratorios show the impact of Handel’s, which he had encountered in London in the 1790s. This work, on the other hand, has far more in common with opera seria; though its dramatic pace is leisurely to say the least, its ornate and lengthy arias (one lasts 12 minutes on this recording!) far outnumber its choruses. Though Haydn’s invention is often worthwhile, the result is slow. Indeed, the piece was considered old-fashioned even by the time of a 1781 revival, and Haydn’s later efforts easily outclassed it. It’s worth a listen, nevertheless, even though this performance is efficient rather than inspiring. Three of the soloists, however adept at running around their myriads of notes, are expressively bland, and it’s surely a mistake to have the bass role of ancient Tobit sung by a baritone. But both Roberta Invernizzi as the Archangel Raphael and Ann Hallenberg as Tobit’s wife Anna are remarkably fluent, and the period orchestra occasionally thrilling under Andreas Spering, despite some wishy-washy sound. George Hall