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BBC Radio 3 Concert
Haydn Plus: Ashley Riches & Joseph Middleton
Friday 17 September 2021, 6pm
Joseph Haydn O Tuneful Voice; The Spirit's Song; The Sailor's Song; Ein kleines Haus; Geistliches Lied; Das Leben ist ein Traum
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Zur Logenfeier; For the sake o' Somebody; Pibroch of Donhuil Du
Franz Schubert Die Sterne; Jägers Liebeslied; Wandrers Nachtlied; Fischerweise
Ashley Riches baritone
Joseph Middleton piano
Recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 3
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O Tuneful Voice;
The Spirit's Song;
The Sailor's Song;
Ein kleines Haus;
Das Leben ist ein Traum
Joseph Haydn was a pioneer in the development of the keyboard sonata, the string quartet and the symphony, and made a significant contribution to the opera repertory. His smaller output of individual songs is less well-known. Most date from the last three decades of his long composing career, once he had detached himself from the shackles of employment at the Esterházy court and was free to enter the lucrative market of music for domestic consumption.
In 1781 and 1784 Haydn’s publisher issued two sets of twelve German Lieder (songs), which Haydn – a fine tenor singer himself – hoped to perform at Viennese soirées, confidently extolling their 'variety, naturalness and beautiful melodies'. A decade or so later, while visiting London for the second time, Haydn published two sets of six songs with English texts, under the title Original Canzonettas.
Some time later he added several more individual songs to his canon, including O Tuneful Voice and The Spirit’s Song, both to texts by his friend Anne Hunter, widow of the eminent surgeon Sir John Hunter. Haydn wanted his chosen texts to embrace a range of emotions, 'both light and shade’, and these songs exploit a fashionable vein of Gothic melancholy.
The Sailor’s Song, a setting of an anonymous ballad celebrating British maritime bravado, opens the second set of Original Canzonettas, published in 1795; while Ein kleines Haus (A Little House) was another individual song, dating from the autumn of 1800.
In the late 1790s Haydn, no longer obliged to live in servants’ quarters in a princely palace, bought himself a house in a Viennese suburb, where he lived until his death. It’s tempting to speculate that this song celebrates his new-found domestic independence. The last two Haydn songs in today’s programme, Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song) and Das Leben ist ein Traum (Life is a Dream) come from the second volume of German Lieder, published in 1784. The last, setting a text by Johann Gleim, is a dramatic, quasi-operatic piece bewailing life’s brevity.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
For the sake o’ Somebody;
Pibroch of Donhuil Dhu
One by-product of Haydn’s London visits was his vast output of British folksong arrangements, commissioned by the Edinburgh publisher George Thomson. In 1793 Thomson embarked on a monumental project to collect and publish a comprehensive anthology of traditional folksongs from the British regions, enlisting the services of contemporary continental composers such as Haydn, Beethoven and Weber.
His commissionees included Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a piano prodigy who had studied with both Mozart and Haydn, and toured Europe from the age of 10 onwards. Hummel was also a proficient composer, and in the late 1820s he provided 20 song settings for Thomson’s mammoth project.
For the sake o’ Somebody sets a poem by Robert Burns: the 'Somebody' is Bonnie Prince Charlie, for whose safety the poet prays. Pibroch of Donhuil Dhu was originally a traditional march played on the bagpipes. Before them we hear Zur Logenfeier, a song written in honour of Freemasons to a text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Poet and composer were both associated with the influential Amalia Lodge in Weimar, where Hummel worked as Kapellmeister from 1819 onwards.
4 Songs Op 96
In 1827 Hummel visited the dying Beethoven in Vienna, and attended a private recital of songs by Franz Schubert, then approaching the final stages of his tragically brief life.
Ashley Riches and Joseph Middleton end their recital with four masterly Schubert songs, published as a group in his last summer. Die Sterne (The Stars) sets a poem by Karl Gottfried von Leitner, a native of Graz, where Schubert stayed on holiday in the autumn of 1827. This serene evocation of an infinite starry universe is dated January 1828. The text of Jägers Liebeslied (Huntsman’s Love Song) was penned by Schubert’s long-time friend Franz von Schober, and set by the composer while he was living with Schober’s family in the spring of 1827. It’s characterised by typical 'hunting' idioms in the bright key of D major.
Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied (Traveller’s Night Song) magically captures the poet’s comparison of slumbering nature with his desire for eternal peace. Finally, Fischerweise (Fisherman’s Ditty) sets a poem by another close friend of the composer, Franz Xaver von Schlechta, a civil servant and amateur Romantic poet. Fischerweise was performed at Schubert’s last public concert in the Philharmonic Society Hall in Vienna on 26 March 1828. He died, aged 31, just over six months later.
Notes by Wendy Thomson
Bass-baritone Ashley Riches studied at King’s College, Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and was later a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House and a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist.
On the operatic stage he has sung Figaro and Count Almaviva (Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro), Don Giovanni (Mozart), Escamillo (Bizet's Carmen), Schaunard (Puccini's La boheme) and the Pirate King (Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance) at houses including the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Garsington, the Grange Festival and Opera Holland Park.
Highlights on the concert platform in the 2021/22 season include Tippett’s Midsummer Marriage with Ed Gardner/London Philharmonic Orchestra, Haydn’s Creation with Laurence Cummings/Academy of Ancient Music, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, a US tour of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Richard Egarr/Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, a European tour of Handel’s Messiah with Paul McCreesh/Basel Chamber Orchestra, Handel’s Solomon with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Bach’s St John Passion with Trevor Pinnock/the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.
In recital, he has collaborated with pianists including Graham Johnson, Iain Burnside, Julius Drake, Joseph Middleton, Anna Tilbrook, James Baillieu, Simon Lepper, Gary Matthewman and Sholto Kynoch.
Ashley has a fast-growing discography including the BBC Music Magazine 2020 Recording of the Year, Purcell’s King Arthur with Gabrieli and Wonderful Town with the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle. Most recently he released his debut solo disc for Chandos, Musical Zoo.
Pianist Joseph Middleton specialises in the art of song accompaniment and chamber music and has been internationally acclaimed within this field. Described in BBC Music Magazine as ‘one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder’, he has also been labelled ‘the cream of the new generation’ by The Times and ‘a perfect accompanist’ by Opera Now.
Joseph enjoys fruitful partnerships with internationally established singers including Sir Thomas Allen, Louise Alder, Ian Bostridge, Dame Sarah Connolly, Iestyn Davies, Fatma Said, Samuel Hasselhorn, Wolfgang Holzmair, Christiane Karg, Katarina Karnéus, Angelika Kirchschlager, Dame Felicity Lott, Christopher Maltman, John Mark Ainsley, Ann Murray, James Newby, Mark Padmore, Miah Persson, Allan Clayton, Matthew Rose, Carolyn Sampson and Roderick Williams. He collaborates with rising stars from the younger generation and regularly programmes his own series for BBC Radio 3.
Recent seasons have taken him to London’s Wigmore Hall, Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw, Köln Philharmonie, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, Lille and Gothenburg Opera Houses, Berlin Boulez Saal, Paris Musée d’Orsay, Zürich Tonhalle, deSingel Antwerp, Luxembourg Philharmonie, Bozar Brussels, Tokyo’s Oji Hall and New York’s Alice Tully Hall. He regularly appears at festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Munich, Schubertiade Schwarzenberg and Hohenems, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Ravinia, Japan, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver as well as the BBC Proms.
His fast growing discography on Harmonia Mundi, BIS, Chandos and Signum Records has won him a Diapason D’or, Edison Award, Prix Caecilia as well as numerous Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine Award nominations.
Joseph Middleton is director of Leeds Lieder, musician in residence at Pembroke College Cambridge and a professor and Fellow at his alma mater, the Royal Academy of Music. He was the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist of the Year Award in 2017.
Thank You for Joining Us
We hope you enjoyed the concert. Keep scrolling to find out what's coming up next at LSO St Luke's.
Forthcoming BBC Radio 3 Concert
Haydn Plus: Trio Karenine
Friday 1 October 1pm
Joseph Haydn Piano Trio in A major, Hob 15/9
Franz Schubert Notturno
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Piano Trio in D major
Wendy Thompson studied at the Royal College of Music, before taking an MMus in musicology at King’s College, London. In addition to writing about music she is Executive Director of Classic Arts Productions, a major supplier of independent programmes to BBC Radio.