Joseph Haydn: Scottish Songs for George Thomson, vol. 2

COMPOSERS: Joseph Haydn
LABELS: Brilliant Classics
WORKS: Scottish Songs for George Thomson, vol. 2
PERFORMER: Lorna Anderson (soprano)Jamie MacDougall (tenor) Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
These 91 tracks may not make for the most varied listening, but they do turn the spotlight on an interesting piece of musical history. Between 1791 and 1805, Haydn wrote around 400 folksong arrangements for three publishers in Scotland, and despite the ‘hack’ work one might imagine was involved, he took them seriously. Completing his arrangements for George Thomson in 1802, with such masterpieces as the two last Masses and Seasons just behind him, the ageing composer wrote (in Italian) in large capital letters: ‘I am proud of this work.’


Thompson, one of Edinburgh’s leading cultural lights, found his lyrics (many by Robert Burns) and tunes in the collections Orpheus Caledonius and The Scots Musical Museum, and commissioned a variety of composers including also Beethoven, Hummel and Weber. Haydn’s resulting ‘Symphonies and accompaniments’ are modest rather than virtuosic, and receive pleasant performances from the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt with two singers well-suited to this music: Lorna Anderson’s soprano is warm, and Jamie MacDougall’s tenor has a bright ring. Worthwhile in small doses, but really one only for Haydn completists and musically-inclined members of the Scottish National Party. John Allison