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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
The Complete Concertos
(see list at end of review)
Augustin Hadelich (violin); Dmitri Babanov (horn); Harald Hoeren (harpsichord and fortepiano); Ariadne Dakalakis (violin); Jürgen Schuster (trumpet); Maria Kliegel (cello); Sebastian Knauer (piano); Harald Hoeren (organ); Ketil Haugsand (harpsichord); Daniel Rothert (recorder); Philipp Spätling (recorder); Benoît Fromanger (flute); Ingo Nelken (flute); Christian Hommel (oboe)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, May 2000-October 2007
NAXOS 8.506019 [6 CDs: 60:20 + 75:52 + 75:27 + 77:59 + 75:42 + 73:28] 
Experience Classicsonline

It may seem surprising to say that it is brave claim that this set includes Haydn’s complete Concertos. However, over the years, many other works have been attributed to him that are now thought to be spurious and are not included here. At the same time, others have been added to the list. Thus the Oboe Concerto Hob.VIIg:C1 and the Concerto No 2 for Horn Hob.VIId:4 – both works that have had several recordings - are excluded. Conversely, one of the best known works that is included here – the D major Cello Concerto Hob.VIIb:2 - was for many years thought likely to be spurious until evidence in the form of an original manuscript emerged in 1953. One undoubtedly genuine work you will look for in vain is the Sinfonia Concertante in Bb Hob.I.105 for violin, cello, oboe, bassoon and orchestra. Naxos have recorded it with this same orchestra but have very properly included it with their set of the complete Symphonies as No 105. One can only wonder whether in a hundred years a collection of “The Complete Concertos” would be the same as or even similar to what we have here.

Haydn wrote Symphonies from the 1750s to the 1790s in sufficient numbers for a clear line of development to be followed. Most of the surviving concertos, in contrast, were mainly written in the earlier part of his career, and whilst they are unfailingly pleasant to hear few, including above all the superb C major Cello Concerto Hob.VIIb:1, can be counted as more than minor in relation to Haydn’s output as a whole. It is the later Concertos that include the few undoubted masterpieces here – the D major Cello Concerto Hob.VIIb:2 of 1783, the D major Piano Concerto Hob.VIII:11 of 1784 and the Trumpet Concerto of 1796. The latter is indeed one of Haydn’s greatest as well as most popular works, wholly different in style as well as quality from what had gone before. 

The final disc contains the five surviving Concertos from what was probably a set of six commissioned by King Ferdinand IV of Naples for a pair of lire organizzate. These were a form of hurdy-gurdy with added organ pipes. Haydn kept copies of them for his own use in Esterháza, transferring the solo parts for other wind instruments, and that is what is done on these discs. Like the later set of Nocturnes written for lire organizzate these pieces are all well worth hearing, being fresh, brief and effective. 

Although a battery of soloists are involved, only one orchestra is used, unlike the Naxos set of the complete Symphonies which is divided among several. The Cologne Chamber Orchestra did for a time use period instruments, but they were re-established in 1987 using modern instruments but apparently influenced by period practice. I must be honest and say that the result does not sound different in kind from the sort of performance given by modern instrument chamber orchestras as long ago as the 1960s, let alone more recently. This is however a description of the performances, not a criticism of them, and overall the orchestra is alert and sympathetic to both the music and to the various soloists. If at times there seems to be a hint of all purpose brightness in the playing of the earlier Concertos, that is perhaps little more than a reflection of the character of the music itself. On the whole their contribution is never less than worthy and often much more than that. 

The same applies to the soloists, although here the peaks are more frequent. I particularly enjoyed Jürgen Schuster’s performance of the Trumpet Concerto – well phrased, avoiding too brassy a sound, and managing the high tessitura without any apparent difficulty. The tessitura of the Cello Concertos is also high, especially in Hob.VIIb:2, but Maria Kliegel copes with it admirably. An occasional tendency to heaviness in the lower register may be a fault of the recording. The various keyboard players manage their various assignments well, and a tendency towards monotony probably will be noticed only by reviewers listening to whole discs at a time. Others would be better advised to mix works from the different discs, thus emphasizing their variety rather than their similarity. One tendency common to most of the soloists is of cadenzas which are excessively long for such brief and economical works. This is however a problem also found on most rival recordings and is not a serious defect. 

The set is greatly enhanced by its presentation in cardboard sleeves in a box with a very lengthy booklet covering all of the Naxos complete Haydn boxes. The others contain the Symphonies, the Quartets and the Piano Sonatas. The notes by Jeremy Siepmann are full and helpful, although you may find yourself also reading those relating to the other types of work. That will certainly give you a greater understanding of Haydn’s genius and probably encourage you to listen to the works described. Presumably Naxos hope that it will encourage the purchase of the other sets. Maybe a set of the complete Concertos is not the most essential purchase of the Haydn anniversary year, but I did find - to my surprise - that once you have finished each of these discs you want to repeat the experience. That is surely a very good reason for wanting to own this set.

John Sheppard



Violin Concerto in C major (Hob.VIIa:1) [17:46]
Violin Concerto in A major (Hob.VIIa:3) [23:03]
Violin Concerto in G major (Hob.VIIa:4) [19:31]
Horn Concerto No 1 in D major (Hob.VIId:3) [15:52]
Harpsichord Concerto in D major (Hob.XVIII:2) [24:49]
Double Concerto in F major for violin and fortepiano (Hob.XVIII:6) [18:03]
Trumpet Concerto in Eb major (Hob.VIIe:1) [14:10]
Cello Concerto in D major (Hob.VIIb:2) [26:54]
Cello Concerto in D major (Hob.VIIb:4) [22:49]
Cello Concerto in C major (Hob.VIIb:1) [25:45]
Piano Concerto in F major (Hob.XVIII:3) [20:07]
Piano Concerto in D major (Hob.XVIII:11) [19:33]
Piano Concerto in G major (Hob.XVIII:4) [20:17]
Piano Concerto in G major (Hob.XVIII:9) [18:03]
Organ Concerto in C major (Hob.XVIII.1) [21:33]
Harpsichord Concerto in C major (Hob.XVIII:5) [11:32]
Organ Concerto in C major (Hob.XVIII:8) [12:03]
Harpsichord Concerto in F major (Hob.XVIII:7) [14:28]
Organ Concerto in C major (Hob.XVIII:10) [12:36]
Concerto in C major for two lire organizzate (two recorders) (HobVIIh:1) [14:50]
Concerto in G major for two lire organizzate (flute and oboe) (HobVIIh:2) [14:23]
Concerto in G major for two lire organizzate (two flutes) (HobVIIh:3) [15:41]
Concerto in F major for two lire organizzate (flute and oboe) (HobVIIh:4) [15:35]
Concerto in F major for two lire organizzate (two recorders) (HobVIIh:5) [12:35]


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