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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Horn Concerto No.3 (1) in D Hob. VIId/3
Horn Concerto No.4 (2) in D Hob. VIId/4

Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)

Horn Concertino P134 (MH105)
Dale Clevenger, horn
Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
János Rolla, conductor
Recorded at Casino Zögernitz, Vienna in June 1983
TELDEC APEX 0927 40825 2 [51.00]


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Haydn (senior) was appointed to the Esterházy court in 1761. He arrived to find most of his non-string players, in other words the winds and brass, had been recruited from the local army bands, the so-called Feldharmonie. Though this arrangement was necessarily unsatisfactory, a year later matters had considerably improved when there was a change at Court as Nikolaus succeeded his late brother Anton. Nikolaus proved to be far more sympathetic to the arts in general and to music in particular. This attracted good players, especially when they got wind (no pun intended) of the fact that salaries there were better even than those on offer at the Imperial Court in Vienna. Among these new recruits were horn players Thaddäus Steinmüller and Johannes Knobloch for whom Haydn wrote these two horn concertos (and others besides, either singly or for two horns and some of them not extant). The first D major concerto (No.3) survives in manuscript and is definitely by Haydn; the other one exists only in a copyistís hand and there are apparently some doubts as to its authenticity. Though not a touch on Mozartís four concertos for the same instrument, written a quarter of a century later for Ignaz Leutgeb, they prove to be enjoyable works and cover a wide range of possibilities as far as the horn is concerned, for at this time it was still valveless and highly treacherous to play. There was also the pioneering work being done at the time by Anton Hampel introducing slide works to the instrument, which Haydn also made use of. There is a wide variety of colour and tone in the writing, much more use of the lower register than Mozart ever used, for example, and the best music reserved for the expressive slow movements.

Haydnís younger brother, Michael, has always been a rather more obscure figure, lurking in the shadow of either his older brother or of Mozart. From 1763 and for 43 years, Michael spent his career in the service of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. The second of them was Colloredo, who infamously had Mozart kicked out of his service (whereupon Haydn succeeded him as organist adding it to his already secure posts of Kapellmeister and Konzertmeister). Michael Haydn got on well with the Mozart family and even collaborated with the 11 year-old prodigy and a third composer (Adlgasser) on an oratorio, to which each contributed a third of the music. Michael was a prolific composer, with 38 masses, secular vocal music, Singspiel operas (that is those with spoken dialogue), 40 symphonies, concertos and chamber music to his name. His Requiem, like Mozartís, was unfinished and was known by his younger contemporary (resulting in some striking similarities when it comes to Mozartís work). The Concertino included here probably comes from his early Salzburg years, in the 1760s; in other words more or less at the same time as his older brotherís essays in the same genre. Unusually structured, the sequence of its three movements progresses from a slow Larghetto, followed by an Allegro and finally a Minuet. This probably implies that this is a fragment of an intended larger-scale work. It had been his habit to write Serenades among which were movements which highlighted one or more virtuosi in his 100 strong Salzburg orchestra. These movements tended to be circulated separately thereafter, so the three put together to form this Concertino may well have had a quite different antecedence.

In this post-Dennis Brain era, horn players have to be virtuosi of the highest calibre. Dale Clevenger (about whom nothing can be deduced from the CD bookletís total lack of information about him) generally produces the goods, apart from one or two high notes on the cusp. He plays his own cadenzas to all three works, if not always sufficiently sustaining their style. The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, with occasionally audible, but delightful, harpsichord continuo under János Rolla gives sterling support.

Christopher Fifield

 


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