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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Eight Zingarese, Hob.IX:28 [8:35]
Ländler, from The Seasons [4:01]
Five Contredances, Quadrille, Minuet, Hob.IX:29 and 24 [9:08]
Minuetto da Ballo 1-6, Hob.1X:4 [12:53]
Notturni per due flauti e due corni, Hob.II:D5 [6:32]
Six German dances, Hob.IX:12 [3:57]
Ensemble Bella Musica de Vienne/Michael Dittrich
rec. August 1980, no recording location given.
HARMONIA MUNDI MUSIQUE D’ABORD HMA 1951057 [45:45]


Delightful, unpretentious dances, imbued with that love of the popular folk music of various traditions – the music of the gypsies, of Croatia, of Hungary. This rarely fails to make its presence felt even in Haydn’s most ‘serious’ compositions, such as in the closing movement of the Piano trio in G minor (Hob. XV:25), which is marked ‘rondo all’ongarese’, the minuet of the String Quartet Op.20, No.4, which carries the marking ‘alla zingarese’, or the first theme of the finale of Symphony 104 (the ‘London Symphony’), which is based on a traditional Croatian song, ‘Oj, jelena, jelena, jabuka zelena’. Such musical materials are presented here in simpler clothes, as it were, in works that fuse a wholly unforced rusticity with a degree of musical sophistication.
 
Haydn, we might remember, was the son of relatively humble parents – his father was a master wheelwright, his mother a former cook – and spent the first few years of his life in the relatively obscure village of Rohrau. Although neither of his parents appears to have had any formal musical training, his father was a self-taught harpist, who regularly involved the rest of his family in his music-making. Haydn, then, grew up with an intimate knowledge of the popular music of his day, a comfortable familiarity reflected everywhere in the music on this enjoyable CD.
 
Most of the pieces played by the Ensemble Bella Musica de Vienne are regarded by modern scholars as only rather doubtfully the work of Haydn – most appear amongst the lists of ‘doubtful and spurious’ works in Grove, for example. This is not mentioned, incidentally, in the enthusiastic, but slightly vague, booklet notes by Michael Dittrich. Add to that the fact that several of these pieces exist only in keyboard versions and that the present versions have been orchestrated by Dittrich and it is clear that from a scholarly point of view this is difficult territory. It is, though, more important to stress that much of this does sound like Haydn and some of it, such as the six (of a set of twelve) dances from Hob.XI:12, and the Ländler from The Seasons, are his work.
 
A particular colour is given to proceedings by the prominent presence on some tracks of the Hungarian cimbalom virtuoso Martha Fabian, whose contributions in the eight zingarese are intriguing and evocative. Elsewhere there are a number of beautiful miniatures, characterised by some witty and alluring rhythms. Everything is recorded in bright – but not over-bright – sound.
 
Even if not all of this music is Haydn’s, it is enjoyable and it does throw light on other areas of Haydn’s work. As such it can be warmly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove
 

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