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Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
The Complete Concertos
Augustin Hadelich and Ariadne Daskalakis (violins); Dmitri Babanov (horn); Harald Horen (harpsichord and fortepiano); Jürgen Schuster (trumpet); Maria Kliegel (cello); Sebastian Knauer (piano); Harold Hoeren (organ); Ketil Haugsand (harpsichord); Daniel Rothert and Philipp Spätling (recorders); Benoît Fromanger and Ingo Nelken (flutes); Christian Hommel (oboe)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, February–October 2007; cello concertos: May 2000. DDD
NAXOS 8.506019 [6 CD: 7:12:48]
Experience Classicsonline

This jolly set from Naxos unites for the first time, I believe, all of Haydn’s surviving concertos. While the level of inspiration here isn’t as consistently high as it is in the symphonies, string quartets or choral works, there’s still plenty to enjoy and the performances show these works to the best advantage.
 
Listeners can be assured at the outset that the old favourites are in safe hands here. The Trumpet Concerto positively gleams in the hands of Jürgen Schuster whose lightly virtuosic playing contrasts well with the martial work of the orchestra. Likewise, the D major Cello concerto (no. 2) is graceful and refined under the bow of Maria Kliegel, the gorgeous slow movement coming across with special beauty. Lest anyone think that Haydn was only capable of conveying one emotion in his concerto writing, Kliegel then throws herself into the swinging rondo finale of No. 4. She shows us a much more vigorous side to Haydn in the C major concerto, while being just as seductive in its slow movement.
 
The three violin concertos are superbly played here, and each has something special to recommend it, be it the total stillness of the orchestra in the slow movement of No. 1, the contre-danse refinement of No. 2 or the busy working out of No. 3. The horn concerto No. 1 is perhaps a little less substantial and more forgettable, but it has a lovely slow movement which ranges most effectively over the horn’s full range. The stand-out work of the first three discs, however, is the Double Concerto for violin and fortepiano. This, Haydn’s only work in this form, is a real delight, an intimate, chamber-like piece which touches on what domestic music-making must have been like in the Esterhaza palace. Furthermore, it was in this work that I first noticed the orchestra’s lack of vibrato. That, combined with the use of the fortepiano, made this a much more “period”-sounding work.
 
The piano concertos on disc four are more familiar fare and all sound absolutely splendid here. The D major, in particular, has an especially exciting feel to the outer movements, while the F major has a profoundly beautiful slow movement. It is especially good to have these keyboard works played on a piano rather than a harpsichord. True, Haydn is no Mozart when it comes to writing concertos, but this disc alone would be enough to convince anyone that he is capable of strokes of genius. Just listen to the profound minor key slow movement of the G major concerto (Hob 9) to get a sense of that. The keyboard concertos that are played by harpsichord and organ I found less convincing. I’ve never been the harpsichord’s biggest fan, and I heard nothing here to change my mind. Especially in concertos, the instrument sounds too spindly and is easily subsumed into the orchestral picture. The same problem is there with the organ concertos, where there is insufficient contrast between soloist and orchestra, with too much blend in the slow movements in particular. Still, those with different tastes to me may find them charming.
 
The most curious disc is the last, featuring Haydn’s surviving concertos for pairs of lire organizzante. This instrument seems to have been close to the hurdy-gurdy and the concertos were commissioned by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, who played the instrument with his teacher. Pairs of wind instruments take the lire organizzante’s role here, and it’s a bit of a shame that we couldn’t have had at least one play-through with the genuine article, if one still exists. Still, the flutes, oboes and recorders fill in nicely and the concertos on this disc sound notably different to the rest of the set. These works are more like divertimenti and there is, again, a tendency for the instruments to blend into the orchestral sound. Here, however, Haydn gets over this by incorporating them from the very start of the music: no exposition repeat with the soloist elaborating on what has gone before. I found these works curious but attractive, especially the busy No. 5 and No. 1 which has a poignant, almost operatic adagio inserted into its fast finale, a lovely touch.
 
Every soloist is top-notch here, but the main stars are the Cologne Chamber Orchestra who have the full measure of this varied set of music. They play with martial swagger when required, as in the trumpet concerto, but refine themselves down to almost one-to-a-part when necessary, as in the Double Concerto. They play on modern instruments but with many period inflections, directed ably by Helmut Müller-Brühl, a specialist in this field.
 
Naxos are really spoiling us with the Haydn anniversary. This is a great set, worthy to set alongside their surveys of the symphonies, piano sonatas and string quartets. Anyone curious about this area of Haydn’s work can invest with confidence.
 
Simon Thompson

see also review by John Sheppard

see Naxos Haydn Symphonies & Concertos page for reviews of individual releases

 
Full work list
CD 1 [60:20]
Violin Concerto in C (Hob.VIIa:1) [17:46]
Violin Concerto in A (Hob.VIIa:3) [23:03]
Violin Concerto in G (Hob.VIIa:4) [19:31]
CD 2 [72:52]
Horn Concerto No. 1 in D (Hob.VIId:3) [15:52]
Keyboard (harpsichord) concerto in D (Hob.XVIII:2) [24:49]
Double Concerto in F (Hob.XVIII:6) for violin and keyboard (fortepiano) [18:03]
Trumpet Concerto in E flat (Hob.VIIe:1) [14:10]
CD 3 [75:27]
Cello Concerto in D (Hob.VIIb:2) [26:54]
Cello Concerto in D (Hob.VIIb:4) [22:49]
Cello Concerto in C (Hob.VIIb:1) [25:45]
CD 4 [77:59]
Keyboard (piano) Concerto in F (Hob.XVIII:3) [20:07]
Keyboard (piano) Concerto in D (Hob.XVIII:11) [19:33]
Keyboard (piano) Concerto in G (Hob.XVIII:4) [20:17]
Keyboard (piano) Concerto in G (Hob.XVIII:9) [18:03]
CD 5 [72:42]
Keyboard (organ) Concerto in C (Hob.XVIII:1) [21:33]
Keyboard (harpsichord) Concerto in C (Hob.XVIII:5) [11:32]
Keyboard (organ) Concerto in C (Hob.XVIII:8) [12:03]
Keyboard (harpsichord) Concerto in F (Hob.XVIII:7) [14:28]
Keyboard (organ) Concerto in C (Hob.XVIII:10) [12:36]
CD 6 [73:28]
Concerto in C (Hob.VIIh:1) for two lire organizzante (two recorders) [14:50]
Concerto in G (Hob.VIIh:2) for two lire organizzante (flute and oboe) [14:23]
Concerto in G (Hob.VIIh:3) for two lire organizzante (two flutes) [15:41]
Concerto in F (Hob.VIIh:4) for two lire organizzante (flute and oboe) [15:35]
Concerto in F (Hob.VIIh:5) for two lire organizzante (two recorders) [12:35]

 


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