Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haydn M - Andromeda und Perseus – Goebel

 

 

Johann Michael Haydn never achieved the fame of his older brother, Franz Josef, but he had a respectable career as a church and court musician, particularly in the service of Cardinal Colloredo of Salzburg, who will go down in history for the lapse in judgment in which his stinginess caused Mozart to slip from his employ. Michael Haydn was Mozart's successor and suffered the same financial indignities that had driven the younger composer away. The Cardinal wanted a grand opera seria to celebrate his 15th anniversary as the head of the Archdiocese of Michael HaydnSalzburg, but didn't want to lay out the expenses associated with such an ambitious venture, so he engaged Haydn, who had little experience in opera, and provincial singers rather than internationally recognized stars. The vocal limitations that Haydn had to accommodate led Leopold Mozart to dismiss the arias as being so simplistic "as to have been written for a choir boy." The elder Mozart's critique seems unfair in light of the music itself, which makes considerable, if not excessive demands on the singers. The soloists on this recording, sopranos Heike Porstein and Christine Wolff, tenor Max Ciolek, and bass Raimund Nolte, sound young, as if their voices aren't entirely quite settled yet, but they sing with purity, and often with lovely tone. The chorus, VokalEnsemble Köln, sings with freshness and ardor, and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, conducted by Reinhard Goebel, offers crisp and spirited accompaniment. The opera is sung in German translation, which is something of a novelty for an opera seria, and with some of the recitatives omitted and replaced by a speaker filling in the narrative gaps. Haydn's music is delightfully inventive, with a number of engaging solos and ensembles. Andromeda und Perseus is an attractive example of a late eighteenth century opera that deserves a wider audience. ~ Stephen Eddins, Rovi

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