Haydn and Mysliveček Provide a Memorable Evening, Full of Delights

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Haydn, Mysliveček: Susanna Hurrell (Gasparina); Rachel Kelly (Apollonia); Kitty Whately (Don Ettore); Robert Murray (Don Pelagio); Orchestra of Classical Opera/Ian Page. Wigmore Hall, London, 19.9.2016. (CC)

Haydn – Symphony No.34 in D minor
Mysliveček – Semiramide: Arias
Haydn – La Canterina

This was a delightful idea; a concert featuring music from 1766 (250 years ago exactly). Although part of the Mozart 250 series, the concert comprised the delightful juxtaposition of Haydn and Mysliveček. Mozart himself comes along later in the season, with Die Schuldigkeit des erten Gebots (in English), Apollo et Hyacinthus and the first four keyboard concertos featuring Kristian Bezuidenhout.

First we heard a Haydn Symphony, No. 34 in D minor, which was probably written around 1766, a piece that already has one foot in the Sturm und Drang of the 1770s. It begins with a lachrymose, extended Adagio, in this performance notable for its beautifully balanced strings and its real sense of profundity. In contrast, the rustic, rasping natural horns of the ensuing Allegro, with its lovely harpsichord continuo and a wonderful pair of oboes that took the music out into the open air; rusticity once more hung over the dance of the Menuet and Trio. True, some string detail got lost in the louder outbursts of the finale (at least from the very back of the hall), but there was no doubting the vim of the final Presto assai.

The Proms this year furnished us with one Semiramide: Rossini’s epic. Here was a sequence of four arias from Mysliveček’s take: this was, in fact, the first of Mysliveček’s operas. Admired by Mozart, Mysliveček is nowadays sidelined as a curiosity, but his expertly crafted music shouts out for further exploration, as this teaser of four arias showed. Tenor Robert Murray despatched Ircano’s dramatic ‘Talor se il vento freme’ with aplomb, his voice fluid in runs yet strong, his brief cadenza a thing of wonder. Unfortunately mezzo Kitty Whately’s ‘Tu mi disprezzi ingrate’ (Tamiri) was blemished by over-vibrato; much better was Rachel Kelly’s full and clear ‘Di Scatalce il rifiuto’, (Semiramide), her diction excellent. The lyric, pastoral central section (‘Il pastor se torna aprile’) was simply glorious. Finally, the beautiful soprano of Susanna Hurrell featured in Mirteo’s ‘Fiumicel, che s’ode appena’; the rapid runs were particularly notable for their accuracy and sense of ease. Revelatory music, impeccably performed. Unfortunately Ailish Tynan, who was originally scheduled to sing soprano, was indisposed; but there was strictly no sense of second best here.

Haydn’s first opera, La Canterina (The Singing Girl, sometimes translated as The Diva) is a brief two-acter about the con artist Gasparina, her friend Apollonia (who pretends to be her mother), the wealthy Don Palagio who is both landlord and singing teacher, and Don Ettore, another victim of Gasparina’s financial and material machinations. The music itself is stock full of delights, especially in a performance as vivacious at this – the same forces, incidentally, recently gave a performance of this opera at Eisenstadt. Supertitles were projected on the back wall of the stage, a blessing as there was no included libretto (and we will forgive the ‘eek out a living’ mistake without a hint of a scream).

As Gasparina, soprano Susanna Hurrell excelled, her mock melodramatic aria in act 1 (as part of the singing lesson) a wonder, the orchestral sonority coloured by the use of cors anglais. Hurrell’s account was throughout intensely characterful. Mezzo Kitty Whately was strong in the trouser role of Don Ettore.

Rachel Kelly was a resonant Apollonia, the character that gets to kick the whole shebang off; while Robert Murray delighted and astonished (vocally, the latter) as the misguided Don Palagio. Ian Page paced the drama to perfection, while the orchestra revelled in Haydn’s simply delicious scoring. The highlight was, perhaps, the energetic quartet at the end of the frirst act.

A memorable, evening, chock full of delights.

Colin Clarke

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