Haydn: La canterina; Symphony No. 35 in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Hungaroton
WORKS: La canterina; Symphony No. 35 in B flat
PERFORMER: Ingrid Kertesi, Andrea Ulbrich, Antal Pataki, Jozsef MukkCapella Savaria/Pal Nemeth
CATALOGUE NO: HCD 31664
This is the earliest Haydn opera to survive (almost) complete and this is its first ever recording (another from the USA has also just been issued). It was first performed publicly in 1767 at carnival time in Pressburg, the ancient coronation town in Hungary (now Slovakia), and the textbook for that occasion has recently been republished in facsimile in the Haydn Yearbook XX.

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It is a merry piece lasting 45 minutes, with four soloists and a small orchestra — the one here distinguished by especially fine horn-playing (on a natural horn, also in the symphony, which goes up to sounding g”). The singing is deft, with a particularly impressive performance by Ingrid Kertesi (now singing at the Diisseldorf opera), and the Italian pronunciation is rather good considering that all the singers are ‘foreigners’. The recording is clear and well-balanced. Sometimes the performance verges on the poetic, as in the Act I accompanied recitative ‘Lo sposar’ — this is where the high horn-playing also occurs. An amusing libretto, with stock Italian heroes and villains, gives Haydn a chance to write two fine finales, one at the end of each act.

The Symphony, chosen because of its chronological proximity to the opera (autograph dated 1 December 1767), is tersely constructed with considerable tension in the first movement.

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The notes are badly translated into English (Nikolaus Esterhazy was a Prince or Fiirst, not a Duke, and there are many other infelicities — ‘two-parted intermezzo’… etc). However, an attractive addition to the repertoire and warmly recommended. HC Robbins Landon