Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Franz Joseph Haydn, Andreas Spering, Morten Schuldt-Jensen|
Haydn: Oratorios [Box Set]
All of Haydn's Oratorios at Budget Price
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 05/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I write this we are coming up to the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death on May 31, 1809. I suspect this is why Naxos has been busy issuing box sets of Haydn's works this year. They have already issued all his symphonies F.J. Haydn: The Complete Symphonies (Box Set), piano sonatas F.J. Haydn: The Complete Piano Sonatas (Box Set), string quartets F.J. Haydn: The Complete String Quartets (Box Set) and concertos The Complete Haydn Concertos, all at budget price. The present 7CD box set includes the two familiar oratorios -- Die Schöpfung (The Creation), Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) -- and a rarity, Il ritorno di Tobia (The Return of Tobias). The familiar oratorios are sung in their original German, and Tobias in Italian.
The Creation uses original instruments, Capella Augustina (Köln), the chorus is VokalEnsemble Köln. The soloists, all fine, are the bright- and fresh-voiced soprano Sunhae Im, the light tenor Jan Kobow, and the eminent basso, Hanno Müller-Brachmann. The whole thing is under the direction of Andreas Spering (who also conducts 'Tobias'). The opening of the work, the tenebrous 'Representation of Chaos', is menacing and effective. However, if you are not a fan of original instrument recordings, you need to know that it certainly does sound primitive, appropriate of course for the subject matter but still a sticking point for some listeners. The overall performance is powerful and dramatic. The familiar 'The Heavens are Telling' is not sung just as a generic paean but as a triumphant affirmation. As with the other oratorios, Naxos originally issued The Creation separately and you can read others' entirely positive reviews here: Haydn: Die Schöpfung (The Creation). That set was also issued in SACD sound but I have not heard it. There is no libretto but a very detailed synopsis helps. One can find the libretto online, complete with English translation. (It should be pointed out that The Creation also exists in an English version contemporaneous with the German original. )
Die Jahreszeiten came a few years after Die Schöpfung, premiering in 1801. It is, no surprise, in four sections: Spring - Summer - Autumn - Winter. Haydn's friend Baron von Swieten compiled the libretto from a long poem by the Scottish poet, James Thomson. This performance uses modern instruments played in the historically-informed performance style. It is quite effective and frankly easier on the ears than the orchestra used in Die Schöpfung. Unfortunately conductor Morten Schuldt-Jensen falls prey to some of the oratorio's unavoidable longueurs, as in the Summer section. Further, recitatives are taken a bit too slowly, leading to further lulls. The sound tends to be a bit unclear at times. Soloists -- soprano Sibylla Rubens, sweet-voiced tenor Andreas Karasiak, and bass Stephan MacLeod -- however, are excellent. You can obtain this performance separately as a 2CD set and read a very positive reader review here: Haydn: Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons). Again, there is an extensive synopsis but no libretto, which is obtainable online.
Il ritorno di Tobia is far less familiar than the other two oratorios and is often discounted by the so-called experts. But it is mature Haydn, composed after he'd written more than sixty symphonies, and premièred in 1775. It tells the story of the Tobias returning home incognito in the company of the Archangel Raphael (sung by a soprano) and curing his father's blindness. This is a very long work -- almost three hours -- and has more than its share of slow patches, but there is glorious music here and the work is very much worth getting to know. There are only a few recordings available; this is the only one I've heard. Again, this is an original-instruments version, using the same forces as in Die Schöpfung, and the sound seems more refined than in the earlier recording. All the soloists -- Roberta Invernizzi, soprano (Raffaelle); Sophie Karthäuser, soprano (Tobias's wife, Sara); Ann Hallenberg, alto (Tobias's mother, Anna); Anders J. Dahlin, tenor (Tobias); and Nikolay Borchev, bass (Tobias's father, Tobit) are quite fine. There is a complete libretto included in Italian only. Other Amazon customer reviews of this performance are here: Haydn - Il ritorno di Tobia
Recommended for those who want all three oratorios and for whom the budget price is a plus. This is a quality release for which I have only small criticisms, primarily of the tempi in parts of The Seasons.