This opera, Handel's penultimate, is relatively direct, both in its scoring–just strings and oboes–and its plot: Rosmene (soprano) must choose between Tirinto (mezzo-soprano), whom she loves and who loves her, and Imeneo (bass-baritone), who rescued her from pirates. Rosmene's confidante Clomiri (soprano) loves Imeneo, but it is unrequited; he loves Rosmene. Argenio (bass) is Rosmene's father; he wants her to marry Imeneo. This simplicity might lead you to believe that the opera is lightweight or emotionally void (it was referred to as an "operetta" at its premiere), but it's remarkable how involved the listener gets in the plot. Until the very last moment we don't know who Rosmene will select, and furthermore, when she feigns madness because she must choose between duty and love, she either feigns it so well that we believe her too, or like Hamlet, she actually is mad–at least for a little while. She opts for duty and picks Imeneo, explaining in a brief final aria that she's like a boat at the mercy of the wind that has gone from one shore to another: "Dear deserted shore," she sings to Tirinto, "if fate took it elsewhere, how did the unfortunate boat commit a sin?"
In honour of Haydn's bicentenary CPO are delighted to present a rarely recorded work; Haydn's two act singspiel Die Feuersbrunst oder das abgebrannte Haus (The Conflagration or The Burned House).
Although The Creation is no stranger to period-instrument performance, two in particular spring to mind as particularly outstanding. The first of these is Christopher Hogwood's on L'Oiseau-Lyre, which is in English and remains the only version to assemble the huge forces for which Haydn actually wrote, with singularly thrilling results. Second, there is Hengelbrock on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, who demonstrated that at least on recordings the music can sound just as big and colorful, but without extensive doubling of instrumental parts. In his version of The Seasons, René Jacobs accomplished a similar feat, and so does this newcomer, even outdoing Hengelbrock in wringing every last drop of color from Haydn's perennially fresh orchestration. All of the other period performances, including Brüggen, Weil, Harnoncourt (twice), Kuijken, and Gardener, stand at some remove from these three.
The celebratory cantata Applausus (1768) was commissioned in honour of the abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Zwettl; because Haydn was unable to be present, he accompanied the work with a long and informative letter on performing practice.