Joseph HAYDN(1732-1809) Te Deum for chorus, orchestra and organ in C
major, Hob. XXIIIc:2 (c. 1798/1800) [9:08] Ludwig van BEETHOVEN(1770-1827)
Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II, for soloists, chorus,
and orchestra, WoO87 (1790) [37:46]
Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II, WoO 88 (1790) [25:09]
Eva Müllerová (soprano); Edita Adlerová (mezzo); Aleš Vorácek (tenor);
Matej Chadima (bass); Alexandra Pridalová (flute); Jirí Šlechta
(cello); Jan Steyer (harpsichord/organ); The Prague Mixed Choir/Jan
Steyer, Jirí Petrdlík
Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra of South Bohemia/Jirí Petrdlík
rec. live, 13-14 June 2012, Otakar Jeremias Concert Hall, Ceské
Budejovice, Czech Republic
No sung texts provided
ARCO DIVA, UP 0148-2 131 [72:16]
This release from Czech label Arco Diva is a live recording
of two concerts held in June 2012.. The programme is of three
rarely heard works separated by only ten years. Arco Diva has
titled this release Cantatas ad honorem Austriae domus
which has been translated for me as Cantatas in honour of
the Austrian Court.
The Haydn work is a traditional hymn of joy and thanksgiving
and is thought to have been performed for the Empress Marie
Therese during the visit of Lord Horatio Nelson with Lady Hamilton
to the Esterházy palace at Eisenstadt in 1800. Richly scored
and splendidly concise the Te deum is a product of
the final decade of Haydn’s life demonstrating his firm command
of contrapuntal forms. It seems that this cheerful work, overflowing
with pious conviction, fell into neglect for many decades before
undergoing a revival around the time of the 150th anniversary
of Haydn’s death in 1959. Haydn did compose another Te deum
Hob.XXIIIc:1 which is also in the key of C major. It originated
from the composer’s early years at the Esterházy court, first
performed it seems in 1763 at Eisenstadt.
I have a highly recommendable account of the Te deum,
Hob. XXIIIc:2 splendidly performed with compelling sacred devotion
conducted by Ferenc Fricsay and the RIAS Chamber Choir, North
German Radio Choir and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Fricsay recorded the score live at Sender Freies Berlin in 1961
and this is now one of ‘The Originals’ series on Deutsche Grammophon
289 463 612-2 (c/w Mozart: Great Mass in C minor, K427). Another
account of Hob. XXIIIc:2 that I admire using period instruments
was recorded by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the Concentus
musicus Wien directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Recorded in 1996
at Casino Zögernitz, Vienna the performance is part of an impressive
6-disc box set of Haydn sacred music featuring four late Masses
on Warner Classics 2564 69939-8.
Beethoven was aged only nineteen in 1790 when he composed these
two pieces. For the pair of cantatas Beethoven used a text by
Anton Severin Averdonk that was chosen by the Reading Society
of Bonn who commissioned the works. It is known that both cantatas
were never performed during Beethoven’s lifetime. Only very
rarely are these scores performed and I should think that even
their very existence is unknown to many Beethoven admirers.
Beethoven had experienced the death of his own mother and whilst
writing the lengthy Joseph Cantata would in all probability
have been able to empathise with the feeling of intense grief
that prevailed after the untimely death of Emperor Joseph II.
The aria Da kam Joseph (Then came Joseph)
is sung with a dark threatening tone by the impressive Prague
bass Matej Chadima. A real highlight was the aria for soprano
with chorus ‘Da stiegen die Menschen an’s Licht’ (Then
mankind climb toward the light). Incidentally in the booklet
it incorrectly states ‘bass’ not ‘soprano’. Soprano Eva Müllerová
was initially a touch unsteady before settling down satisfactorily.
The Czech soprano does rather grab at the top notes and sounds
slightly shrill but overall this remains an attractive and enthusiastic
performance. At point 3:05 (track 5) the moment when the soprano
is joined quietly by the choir is quite magical and another
highlight of the release. Some excellent woodwind playing is
a pleasing feature of this aria and the disc overall.
The Leopold Cantata is a jubilant work written to celebrate
the accession of Emperor Leopold II to the imperial
throne. I especially enjoyed the soprano aria ‘Fliesse,
Wonnezähre, fliesse!’ (Flow, tears of joy, flow!)
with its prominent flute and cello parts. Required to sing with
operatic coloratura Eva Müllerová imparts drama to Beethoven’s
demanding writing. The slight shrillness and note-grabbing is
still evident but the overall effect is satisfying. Once again
the obbligato parts for cello and flute add extra colour.
Another rather operatic touch is the inclusion of the trio for
soprano, tenor and bass ‘Ihr, die Joseph ihren Vater nannten,
weint nicht mehr!’ (You, who called Joseph your father,
cry no more!). In a fine performance the voices of soloists
Eva Müllerová, Aleš Vorácek and Matej Chadima blend exceedingly
well. Probably the best known recording that includes both the
Joseph Cantata and the Leopold Cantata is
from Matthew Best conducting a fine group of soloists and the
Corydon Singers and Orchestra. Best made this admirable recording
in 1997 at the Blackheath Concert Halls, London. It can be found
on Hyperion CDA 66880.
These performances are full of vitality and intensity. I was
pleased with Petrdlík’s committed approach and well judged tempi,
however, when compared to my recommended accounts the contributions
of the soloists sounded a touch uneven with the Prague choir
and South Bohemia orchestra not quite able to match the level
of expression and unison.
Even though this Arco Diva release is aimed at the English-speaking
world as well as the Czech home market disappointingly there
are no texts included. The listener is left frustrated at not
being able to understand what is being sung. I know some of
the meaning of the Latin Te Deum laudamus (O God,
we praise Thee) but certainly not the whole text. It’s
high time that this practice of leaving out texts (and translation
where necessary) from the booklet ceased. No texts have been
made available on the Arco Diva website either. Recorded at
the Otakar Jeremias Concert Hall in Ceské Budejovice the sound
quality is agreeable. This is a live recording and some audience
noise is slightly detectable but nothing too problematic. The
engineers have left in the applause after the final score only.
In short this is a fascinating and well performed release that
Beethoven and Haydn enthusiasts will want to consider owning.
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