Perhaps it’s a terrible admission to make, but much as I love
Haydn, I have never really warmed to his concertos. Here, I thought,
was the father of the Symphony as we know it today, the String
Quartet as we know it today, and the foundation of opera. OK,
I know that Mozart had an hand in the development of all these
forms but it was Haydn who got things going. Sure enough, there’s
drama and poetry aplenty in the pieces mentioned but concertos?
Where’s the dramatic interplay between soloist and orchestra?
Where’s the element of man standing alone against the crowd?
along comes this disk and I suddenly have to re–think my position.
It had never dawned on me that the concept of protagonist and
lynch mob hadn’t been invented at the time Haydn was writing
his concerted works. So now I can see them in a different light
for what they are – wonderful entertainment music with prominent
parts for solo instruments.
glad that I’ve been able to change my views and can now enjoy
these works for they are delightful. The Horn Concerto
which opens the disk is full of good things, the writing for
horn is certainly virtuosic – the range which Haydn demands
of his performer is phenomenal – and here Babanov is quite happy
whether he plays in the highest or lowest registers. Haydn goes
to both extremes and exploits the full range of the instrument.
The work also includes two quite taxing cadenzas. It is thought
that the work was written for Joseph Leutgeb, the recipient
of Mozart’s four Horn Concertos - he must have been some
player! And what a lucky man to have five such magnificent works
created for him!
Harpsichord Concerto is full of great jokes. I especially
love the jumping frog impression which the keyboard undertakes
at 1:37 in the first movement. There’s lots of interplay between
soloist and orchestra, more than in the wind concertos, but
this is probably because Haydn knew that his soloist wouldn’t
be overwhelmed by the accompaniment as easily as in the other
works. The slow movement contains many little jokes with grace
notes cheekily sticking their noses into the serious business
of tunefulness. The finale is simply a fast romp.
Double Concerto is thought to have started life as a
work for organ. It is considered to have been performed for
the solemn profession of Therese Keller, Haydn’ future sister–in–law,
as a nun in 1756 – the proof being that the range used by the
fortepiano is restricted to the range of the contemporary Viennese
organ. Certainly, this is a more serious work, more stately,
than the others contained herein. The two soloists never engage
in overt display and more often than not they connect in harmonious
duet. Rather lovely it is, too. The finale is fast and joyful,
but there’s still a serious undertone to the music.
to the solo trumpet repertoire being quite small, until contemporary
composers started writing for it, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto
has become very well known. It’s a true virtuoso work with a
gorgeous slow movement and a racy finale.
performances here are first class, with lots of life and a real
period feel. There’s nothing prissy or restrained about them
- they’re really very alive. Thoroughly enjoyable.
must make two points. First of all, in almost every movement,
for reasons best known to himself, Müller–Brühl insists on making huge rallentandi
at the ends of movements. This ruins the flow of what has gone
before. It is a blemish on the performances.
second point is rather more important. The sound is in Naxos’s
best manner – bright and clear. In the Trumpet Concerto
the balance between soloist and orchestra is perfect. The whole
sound is well focused and there is a good relationship between
listener and performer. However, in the other three works the
recording is very close which slightly distorts the sound-picture
as everything comes across as being overblown. The obviously
small string orchestra ends up sounding like a small orchestra
which has been over–amplified. This is most noticeable in the
slow movements where a more intimate atmosphere is required
than in the faster pieces. If you turn the volume down in the
hope of taming the sound you lose some of the presence of the
performances. This is a shame for these are spritely performances
which are real winners and will do much to make these works
better known to the public.
is well worth having, despite my reservations about the sound.
If you can tame it ever so slightly – it doesn’t need much –
you’ll have a really good time listening to very pleasurable