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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
London Trios for two flutes and violoncello (1794) *
Trio I (Hob. IV,1) [8:27]; Trio II (Hob. IV.2) [7:00]; Trio III (Hob. IV.3) [12:05]; Trio IV (Hob. IV.4) [4:37]
Divertimentos for flute, violin and violoncello (1784) **
Divertimento I (Hob. IV,6) [7:33]; Divertimento II (Hob. IV,7) [9:28]; Divertimento III (Hob. IV.8) [7:29]
*Laurel Zucker, Renée Siebert, (flutes), Samuel Magill (cello)
**Laurel Zucker (flute), Shirien Taylor (violin), Samuel Magill (cello)
Recorded Concordia College, California, 1997.
CANTILENA 66013-2 [56:48]

The earliest music here is to be found in the three divertimentos for flute, violin and cello. These were published by William Forster in London, in 1784. There were actually six divertimentos, and they all went through several later editions, often with small changes. It is a syncretic version that is used here. These are pieces in which, somewhat unusually for him, Haydn extensively recycled earlier material; there are many debts to his opera Il mondo della luna, first performed a few years earlier in 1777.

The so-called ‘London Trios’ were, it seems, written ten years later for some of Haydn’s London patrons, Lord Abingdon and Sir Walter Aston, both of whom were amateur flautists. The flute had, for some time, been a popular choice of instrument amongst amateur musicians, and it was an instrument for which Haydn had an evident fondness. These very attractive trios were, however, the last pieces of chamber music Haydn was to write for the flute.

The two English aristocrats were obviously very competent musicians, for two flutes are given some quite difficult material to negotiate. The interplay between the two instruments is often intricate, as in the counterpoint in the first movement (marked ‘Spiritoso’) of Hob. IV.3.

Laurel Zucker is a fine musician whose playing is characterised by intelligence, imagination and technical certainty. I have heard with pleasure a number of recordings by her – such as those of Claude Bolling’s Jazz Suites and the Handel Flute Sonatas. I am not sure, however, that this particular CD represents her at her best. Certainly it is technically assured at all points - some of the interweaving of lines with Renée Siebert in the London trios is very well handled, and Samuel Magill is reliability itself. But it all seems just a little cool, even a little bland, and is not helped by a recorded sound that isn’t of the very best. There are quite a few places where the music could bear a bit more characterisation. These are by no means bad performances, but they don’t make the most persuasive of cases for the music. For that one needs to look elsewhere – the London Trios, for example have had very different recordings by Camerata Köln (on cpo) and by Rampal, Stern and Rostropovich (on Sony).

Most of this is lightweight Haydn, and these are pleasant, but unmemorable, performances of it.

Glyn Pursglove



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