Michael Haydn may be
one of the great footnotes of baroque
music. Overshadowed by the genius of
his brother, Joseph Haydn, and limited
in circulation to the Salzburg court,
his works have been largely forgotten.
Although Mozart seems to have found
him impressive and inspirational, his
works are not widely recorded today.
In cases such as this it is often necessary
to have truly spectacular recordings
created to generate interest in an artist
that has been unfairly forgotten.
This is just such a
recording. Not a note is missed; the
direction of Christian Zacharias is
very good, the interpretations of the
vocalists are very much in keeping with
what one would expect. The orchestra
plays brilliantly and flawlessly. This
is Haydn as he himself would have intended.
There is not a single moment where this
recording fails to deliver these baroque
masterpieces in all of their refined
glory. Each work would be considered
a masterwork if they had been written
by his more famous sibling, thus exposed
to a broader audience.
The Requiem, presented
first on this recording, is the work
of Michael Haydn as a younger man. In
it he quotes from the plainchant that
these works were intended to supplant
in worship. However, this is not a criticism
in any way, as the practice of the day
was to do exactly that in order to not
jar the listener too much. The resulting
work is remarkable in any case, and
the modern listener would never think
to criticize Haydn either for the broad
melodic quoting or for the brilliant
liberties taken. It begins as a dark
piece, brooding for its time, with intelligent
and moving use of brass and strings.
Throughout the work, the chorus is used
brilliantly and the soloists are utilized
perfectly. One must be impressed at
the early maturity of this man, and
at the brilliance of this work.
As Haydn matured, he
was hired to work for the same Salzburg
courts that employed Mozart to be their
concertmaster. The latter two works
are from this era of his life, when
he was devoting himself to instrumental
music. They are both fine examples of
pre-Beethoven symphonies. Indeed, both
works can be considered remarkable in
some places for their uncommonly expressive
use of trumpet ensemble and timpani.
This is a recording
well worth exploring, as the material
is delightful and inspired, feels comfortingly
familiar, and yet is generally unknown.
This is exactly the type of rediscovered
gem that the true lover of classical
music will find remarkable. It is a
great injustice that so fine a composer
as Michael Haydn would be so forgotten,
especially in light of the continued
recognition of his brother. One can
hope that he will here be rediscovered
by the modern listener. Certainly the
modern listener will find the exploration