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Solo e pensoso, Hob XXIVb:20

author of text

According to the work’s autograph manuscript it was a Russian ‘Grand Prince’ who suggested to Haydn that he set Petrarch’s sonnet Solo e pensoso. Composed in 1798, this was to be Haydn’s final Italian aria, and it was not actually published until 1961. It was first performed at the two Christmas concerts of the Tonkünstler-Societät in Vienna, on 22 and 23 December 1798, with a certain Antonie Flamm as soloist. She seems to have been a contralto, in which case she must have been tested by the range of the aria; this perhaps accounts for the subsequent report submitted by the Society on 12 February 1799, which asserts that “Mademoiselle Flamm was found very unsatisfactory by the audience”.

Solo e pensoso was one of the many sonnets inspired by Petrarch’s unrequited love for a woman called Laura. It follows the standard Italian sonnet form which Petrarch made famous, consisting of eight lines (comprising two quatrains rhyming ABBA) followed by a contrasting sestet comprising two sets of three lines. This natural division into two parts lends itself well to musical setting, and the beguiling charm of Haydn’s second section, with chirping clarinets and bassoons to the fore, contrasts effectively with the soulful isolation and introspection of the first part. If this opening section evokes the tonal palette and spiritual depth of Haydn’s late masses—indeed the opening melodic figure is almost identical to the opening of the Agnus Dei from the ‘Nelson’ Mass—the second part recalls the bucolic naivety and open-heartedness of The Creation, which had received its first performance earlier in 1798.

from notes by Ian Page © 2017


Studio Master: SIGCD485Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 12 on SIGCD485 [6'41] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD485 track 12

Recording date
19 February 2016
Recording venue
St Augustine's Church, Kilburn, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Mellor
Recording engineer
Andrew Mellor & Claire Hay
Hyperion usage
  1. Perfido! (SIGCD485)
    Disc 1 Track 12
    Release date: May 2017
    Download only
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