Johann Michael Haydn, Der Kampf der Buße und Bekehrung (Part II), E. Scholl, T. Szaboky, Z. Varadi, Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, G. Vashegyi
(released on July 8, 2014)
Carus 83.351 | 79'55"
The casting of this performance, with sopranos singing all five roles, is a bit of a mystery. A published libretto of the work in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Slg.Her O 222) lists the names of men who sang the roles of Christ and Freigeist: court tenor Franz Anton Spitzeder, who also sang in a similar three-composer oratorio from the year before, Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots (by Mozart, Michael Haydn, and Adlgasser, with only Mozart's contribution surviving) and another court singer, Felix Winter. Haydn's score, which I have not seen, may indicate otherwise. The writing, for both instruments and voices, is virtuosic: in the aria for Gnade (Grace), Jesu, der den Tod besiegt, a demanding obbligato horn part spars with the singer jumping between high range and low chest. In two pieces, there are obbligato parts for solo trombone, which is somewhat bizarre but a sound that catches one's attention. In my experience as a choral singer, Michael Haydn's best work is a composer for choir, reflecting his training as a choir boy in Vienna, and the two choral parts are the high point of this oratorio.