Hans-Martin Linde / Cappella Coloniensis

Joseph Haydn: Cantatas

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Marketed for all the world as a new CD, with 2008 and 2009 copyright and performance-mark dates, this album reveals only in the small print that it was recorded in 1987 and 1988, in the early years of the application of historical-performance principles to Haydn in Germany. Moreover, the cantatas promised on the cover, which are recitative-aria pairs to texts by ubiquitous Italian librettist Pietro Metastasio, occupy only about 22 minutes of the full-length program, the rest of which is given over to instrumental music. The Cappella Coloniensis instrumental ensemble is led by a couple of different conductors, with varying results. In short, nothing is quite as it appears, but there are strong points. The two cantatas, each fine rants of despair, are attractively sung by mezzo soprano Marilyn Schmiege; they are not terribly common works, and they're worthwhile examples of Haydn's generally rather obscure solo vocal art. And the lively reading of the Symphony No. 92 in G major, H. 1/92, "Oxford," can hold its own with later historical-instrument versions. The news is not so good with the Violin Concerto No. 4 in G major, Hob. 7a/4, with its shapeless ensemble string work that in the 1980s was characteristic of Baroque groups that moved forward into Classical-period repertoire and an unremarkable performance by violinist Ingrid Seifert. The brittle sound from the WDR radio network was also characteristic of the period, but there's enough here to interest Haydn collectors. The booklet is in German, English, and French, but translations of the Italian vocal texts appear only in the first two of those languages.

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