La Passione: Works by Haydn, Nono & Grisey
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Cat No: ALPHA586
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 27th March 2020
WorksChants (4) pour franchir le seuil
Symphony no.49 in F minor, Hob.1:49 'La Passione'
Canti di vita e d'amore
ArtistsBarbara Hannigan (soprano)
Luigi Nono (1924-90) was a politically engaged composer. His stunning monody Djamila Boupachà, a heart-rending cry for solo soprano, pays tribute to a freedom fighter tortured by French paratroopers during the Algerian war; Picasso also portrayed her in charcoal. Once again Barbara Hannigan both sings and directs this pair of twentieth-century works with her friends of the Ludwig Orchestra. She has chosen to couple them with a Classical symphony by the master of the genre, Joseph Haydn, which also deals with the theme of the Passion. Her interpretation is extremely intense and highly personal.
1Nono - Djamila Boupacha for Soprano Solo
2Haydn - Symphony No. 49 in F Minor, Hob. I:49 'La Passione': I. Adagio
3Haydn - Symphony No. 49 in F Minor, Hob. I:49 'La Passione': II. Allegro di molto
4Haydn - Symphony No. 49 in F Minor, Hob. I:49 'La Passione': III. Minuet - Trio
5Haydn - Symphony No. 49 in F Minor, Hob. I: 49 'La Passione': IV. Finale. Presto
6Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano & Ensemble: Prelude - I. La mort de l'ange
7Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano & Ensemble: Interlude - II. La mort de la civilisation
8Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano & Ensemble: Interlude - III. La mort de la voix
9Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano & Ensemble: Faux interlude - IV. La mort de l'humanite
10Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for Soprano & Ensemble: Berceuse
Emerging from the dying strains of Djamila Boupacha, Haydn’s Symphony no.49 in F minor (inauthentically nicknamed ‘La Passione’) can rarely have had such an impact as it does here. This 1768 symphony is the epitome of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang style, even though it probably began life (like so many of his symphonies at that time) as theatre music. Its da chiesa form (two slow movements alternated with two fast ones) is here given a performance of daring intensity, the opening Adagio twice the length of some rival versions, and played by the strings of the Ludwig Orchestra with all the expressive range available to modern instruments. On the repeats, Hannigan adds a lone (and probably anachronistic) harpsichord, weaving its way through the textures like a ‘dark, lost angel’, expertly realised by Tineke Steenbrink. The succeeding Allegro di molto bursts definitely into life, its wide leaps, relentless energy and stark dynamic contrasts coming across as remarkably modern in this context. They’re pushed to extremes by Hannigan, the strings digging in with real bite, the horns almost braying, yet somehow still retaining the vestiges of an historically informed foundation. The Trio to the sombre Minuet is the only major-key respite; taken at a faster, danceable tempo, it emerges like a mirage amidst the pain, and disappears almost as quickly. The Presto finale is driven every bit as much as the second movement, the strings swelling and subsiding at lightning speed, their multiple stops delivered with bold panache. Few others would dare perform Haydn this way these days, but Hannigan and her colleagues bring it all off with their forthright conviction.
Haydn in turn gives way to the whispered winds that open Gérard Grisey’s astonishing Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil (‘Four songs to cross the threshold’), his last completed work before his death at the age of 52 in 1998. Its four texts are taken from Christian, Egyptian, Greek and Mesopotamian cultures, successively labeled ‘The death of the Angel’, ‘The death of civilisation’, ‘The death of the voice’ and ‘The death of humanity’. Scored for soprano and an ensemble of fifteen instruments, this is a uniquely powerful work of hypnotic textures and remarkably virtuosic vocal writing. The penetrating trumpet of Cyrus Allar deserves special mention, but all the instrumentalists, from the evocative percussion to the growling tuba and funereally tolling harp, are on their mettle here. The gentle hues of the second song (accompanying the reading of barely legible inscriptions from ancient tombs) are particularly affecting, while the craziness of the fourth acts like a shocking wake-up call with its screeching single reeds and violent drums (evoking scenes from The Epic of Gilgamesh). The closing Berceuse seems to hold out some hope of redemption, or at least some sort of resolve. In these troubled times, it makes a particularly powerful impression, and the disc as a whole, while not for the fainthearted, has an expressive directness that will surely speak honestly as well as imaginatively to many listeners.
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