Martina Janková

Recollection: Haydn Songs

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Joseph Haydn's songs, long marginalized within his output, have begun to give up some of their secrets thanks to a new variety of interpretations, although the classic readings by Elly Ameling remain hard to touch. This strong Czech disc, with soprano Martina Janková pictured sitting meditatively in front of a stone wall wearing some very sharp leather boots, has an agenda stated in the rather awkward title of the booklet essay: "Beethoven's precursor and an ideal arranger." The title points to the two halves of the program. In their selections from a set of English Canzonettas (here called Canzonets) composed during Haydn's second London visit, Janková and Swiss accompanist Gérard Wyss, who plays his part superbly, emphasize more serious material. The familiar song Piercing Eyes is omitted, the independence of the piano part is played up, and Janková takes her time and puts some weight on Schubertian pieces such as The Wanderer (track 7) and especially The Spirit's Song (track 9). Even in the early 1780s collection of Songs by Various Poets Janková and Wyss find an innovative spirit of equality between singer and accompanist, and Janková gives full value to the operatic qualities of these uneven but interesting early examples of the German lied. The idea of Haydn as Beethoven's precursor in the song form may or may not hold up, but these performers make a musically convincing case for it. The "ideal arranger" half of the program, focusing on Haydn's (or an assistant's) arrangements of Scottish and Welsh folk songs is less persuasive; Janková's voice isn't as well suited to these simpler pieces, and, although her English pronunciation is very fine, she isn't quite up to the light Scots dialect in Up in the Morning Early (track 18). This is nevertheless a consistently interesting choice for listeners interested in Haydn's songs. Booklet notes are in English, French, German, and Czech, but song texts are in the original language (English or German) and Czech only; monolingual anglophones will be out of luck in the Songs by Various Poets.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:28
2
6:10
3
3:40
4
3:04
5
2:21
6
4:10
7
4:37
8
5:10
9
5:43
10
2:37
11
4:38
12
1:31
13
1:24
14
4:23
15
2:24
16
1:33
17
2:53
18
1:35
19
1:11
20
1:19
21
1:10
22
2:00
23
1:44
24
1:27
blue highlight denotes track pick