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Haydn: Applausus / Spering, Palimina, De Liso, Weisser

Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Capriccio Records   Catalog #: 5036   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Andreas WolfDonát HavárAnna PaliminaMarina De Liso,   ... 
Conductor:  Andreas Spering
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Augustina
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HAYDN Applausus Andreas Spering, cond; Anna Palimina ( Temperantia ); Marina de Liso ( Prudentia ); Donát Havár ( Justitia ); Johannes Weisser ( Fortitudo ); Andreas Wolf ( Theologia ); Capella Augustina CAPRICCIO 5036 (2 CDs: 99:44 Read more Text and Translation) Live: Brühl 2/2008

Because Haydn could not attend the premiere of his 1768 cantata Applausus , he wrote a detailed letter covering many details of how it should be performed. This unique document has served as instruction for all Haydn performances, and those of other 18th-century works. All well and good, but the letter has diverted attention from the work itself. Composed to celebrate a monk’s 70th birthday, it is a happy, upbeat piece despite its Latin text. In the words of H. C. Robbins Landon, “the music is fully up to date, with echoes of the composer’s symphonies and operas, though the widespread use of da capo structures checks the natural impetus of the music.” Its charming arias—like those in Il ritorno di Tobia —go on too long. Having just attended a Handel opera ( Partenope , at the New York City Opera) with seemingly interminable da-capos-within-da-capos, I wonder why today’s producers, who are all too willing to cut entire numbers to “tighten” an 18th-century work, don’t ease up on the da capos instead. A 45- or 50-minute Applausus would be one of the gems of the Haydn repertoire.

The four Cardinal Virtues (Temperance, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude) sing of the joys of life at the monastery, in consultation with the church, in the person of Theology. They are accompanied by an orchestra of strings, oboe, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, and timpani, with harpsichord obbligato. The basic format is recitative and aria; included are a duet, quartet, and final chorus, sung by the five soloists (an earlier recording used a chorus, although the score does not call for one). Many of the recitatives are also fully accompanied, adding to the fun.

My first exposure to Applausus was at Tanglewood in 1964, by the Boston Symphony under Erich Leinsdorf (of which there also seems to be a pirate recording); it was less than an hour long, but I didn’t know it well enough to decide how it got that way—missing arias or reduced da capos. There have been at least three commercial recordings, one of which (on Koch) I have not heard. A 1991 modern-instrument recording led by Patrick Fournillier on Opus 111 ( Fanfare 16:3) was consistent and reliable, but this period-instrument performance is its superior in energy and fire. Vocal soloists are satisfactory in both cases, the basses on these discs standing head and shoulders above all others. The gorgeous final chorus makes a greater impact with Spering’s five soloists, firmly anchored by those basses, than with Fournillier’s distantly recorded chorus. Alas, Capriccio’s recorded sound is so reverberant that it dissipates much of this performance’s advantages; orchestra and vocalists suffer alike. Only basses Wolf and Weisser escape, their potent, easily produced tones cutting through the murk. Capriccio supplies texts in Latin and German only; Opus 111 adds English and French. Despite all, I much prefer this new recording, which is just as well, as the Fournillier seems to have disappeared from catalogs worldwide.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Applausus, H 24a no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Andreas Wolf (Bass), Donát Havár (Tenor), Anna Palimina (Soprano),
Marina De Liso (Mezzo Soprano), Johannes Weisser (Baritone)
Conductor:  Andreas Spering
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Augustina
Period: Classical 
Written: 1768; Eszterhazá, Hungary 

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