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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Keyboard Concertos – D, Hob.XVIII/11 (1770) [16’22]; F, Hob.XVIII/3 (1771) [19’06]; D, Hob. XVIII/2 (1755?) [21’10]; G, Hob.XVIII/4 (c1770?) [18’06].
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Concerto Copenhagen/Lars Ulrik Mortensen (continuo).
Rec. Garnisonskirken, Copenhagen, Denmark in October 2003. DDD
BIS CD-1318 [75’54]

Seventy-six minutes of pure delight. Brautigam’s solo BIS recordings of Mozart and Haydn are well recognised for their innate musicality, a trait no less in evidence here where he is joined by the excellent period band Concerto Copenhagen.

Brautigam plays a Paul McNulty 1992 instrument built after Anton Gabriel Walter. It is a lovely instrument, out of which Brautigam is able to coax a great variety of shades of expression. See my review also of Brautigam’s Beethoven, played on another McNulty fortepiano ( ; this was an SACD … will this Haydn disc appear on SACD also, I wonder?).

The present disc begins with probably the most famous of Haydn keyboard concertos, the D major, Hob.XVIII/11; famously, it was in Michelangeli’s repertoire! Here it buzzes with both inner and outer life, original-instrument horns rasping at around 4’30 in the first movement. Brautigam’s articulation is excellent, his musicality beyond doubt. An expressive ‘Un poco adagio’ retains its intimacy before the ‘Rondo all’Ungarese’, fizzing along with no small amount of wit. Superb. Concerto Copenhagen accompanies with sensitivity and razor-sharp responses.

The F major concerto dates from around the same time; as so often with this composer exact dating can be difficult. It is eminently civilised. Brautigam’s finger-work remains a delight, and there is a nice sense of stereo spread from the strings. Unfortunately the cadenza is uncredited; it leaves a lovely thread for the listener to follow.

The F major’s slow movement is positively gorgeous. Flowing yet intense, the melodic line is a thing of beauty. Actually this movement distinctly tends towards the Mozartean, before Haydn returns in full, complete with glint in his eye, for the cheeky finale.

Finally the delightful G major Hob.XVIII/4, with its cascades of descending scales (first movement), its interior slow movement and joyful finale. It seems the perfect, most satisfying way to end the disc.

Interesting that Andsnes on his EMI disc plays only three of the concertos here, leaving a playing time of only 54 minutes (556 960-2). Brautigam loses nothing in verve and immersion in the spirit of the music. Recommended.

Colin Clarke

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