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Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Die Wahrheit der Natur, Ein Singspiel MH 118 (1769)
Maximilian Kiener (tenor) – Mentor
Armin Gramer (alto) – Die Natur
Lina Ferencz (alto) – Aglaia, die Dichtkunst
Nele Gramß (Mezzo) – Euphrosina die Tonkunst
Diana Plasse (soprano) – Thalia, die Malerei
Virgil Hartinger (tenor) – Herr Vollstreich
Markus Miesenberger (tenor) – Herr von Wurmstich
Salzburger Hofmusik/Wolfgang Brunner
rec. 2015, Solitär, Mozarteum University Salzburg
CPO 555 032-2 [79:58]

It is all too easy to compare the works of Michael Haydn with those of his more illustrious brother Joseph, especially when it comes to the symphonies, chamber music and masses. It must be remembered that at the time Michael was regarded as the finer composer of the two when it came to the setting of the Latin text of the Mass. These days neither is much remembered as a composer of dramatic music. Michael wrote an opera and eleven singspiels, Joseph some fifteen operas and one singspiel. There also is Dorati’s ground-breaking Joseph Haydn Opera Edition for Philips. Even so, both composer’s dramatic oeuvre has rarely featured in the catalogues. That makes the present recording all the more welcome.

The story of Die Wahrheit der Natur, or The Truth of Nature, revolves around Mentor’s quest for true art, which here is aided by the three Graces, Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness) and Thalia (Bloom), the daughters of Nature. It is through this quest that they meet some more questionable characters including Herr Vollstreich, a vain master of song, and the boastful painter Herr von Wurmstich, as well as an ill-mannered schoolmaster and his wife. The comic text is from the allegorical poem by the Benedictine monk Florian Reichssiegel, which he based on antiquity and the tales of Greek mythology. The music composed for this comic singspiel is well suited to the text. Light-hearted melodies accompany the vocal parts with dance-like tunes interspersed among the arias.

I have recordings of many of Michael Haydn’s symphonies, chamber works and religious compositions, but this is my first disc of his secular vocal compositions. On this evidence, he saved some of his best melodies for secular music. This singspiel is really just a collection of arias to highlight aspects of a story. There is, for example, only one recitativo between Mentor and Natur (No. 15) which could be deemed anything like a duet. The final aria is a true operatic tour de force between Nature, Mentor and Aglia; the full cast plus the soprano Lucia Hausladen and the basses Felix Mischitz and Samo Lampichler join together for the final choral verses.

The music is well performed, although I am still not sure if there is a slightly clipped note or a bad edit at the beginning of the opening Sinfonia. It sounds much better and less rushed in the repeat than in the opening when it is given a little more time. The singing is excellent throughout. Maximilian Kiener’s highish tenor voice is well matched with Armin Gramer’s male alto. The three Graces are well served by Lina Ferencz, Nele Gramß and Diana Plasse. Their differing voices bring colour and distinction to their roles. Both Virgil Hartinger and Markus Miesenberger colour their voices to bring a degree of pomposity to their characters which suits the roles well. The orchestral playing of the Salzburger Hofmusik is excellent, especially in the five dance movements. It is hard to believe that there are only fifteen of them.

Wolfgang Brunner not only acts as director of the music. He also wrote the excellent booklet notes which include a section on the performance practice of the period and a synopsis. Full texts and translations are also included in German and English. The very good recorded sound appears to be captured in a natural and not too reverberant acoustic. This is a valuable addition to the gradually growing catalogue of Michael Haydn’s music, of interest to the devotees of the theatrical music of the late eighteenth century.
Stuart Sillitoe

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