and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra have contributed a number
of fine discs to the ongoing Naxos-Haydn project (see Naxos
Haydn review page
), but this disc is one of their very best.
Let us give conductor and
orchestra their due – the playing is stylish and period sensitive,
with vibrato kept to a minimum and a merry harpsichord continuo
tinkling its way through the performances. Müller-Brühl's
tempi are consistently well chosen and his direction is clear-sighted.
He is no Thomas Fey or Nicholas Harnoncourt: he does not
blaze or tweak your nose. He is, though, a reliably fine
Haydn conductor with a feel for Haydn's poetry and an ability
to bring off his zippy finales.
This much we
expect from the Cologne forces. What raises this disc from
being another solid recommendation to being one to seek out
is the revelation of 24 year old violinist Augustin Hadelich.
German by descent and Italian by birth, Hadelich has an old
fashioned sound that brings these concertos to life.
Here is a violinist
who clearly enjoys the charm and elegance of Haydn's music,
but feels its emotional content too. His playing is beautiful
rather than pretty – his full, rounded but middled tone contrasting
with the historically-informed performance style of his collaborators.
Not that his style jars with theirs: the contrast simply
serves to snap the listener's attention to the solo line.
The technical polish and dynamic control of his playing is
easy to take for granted given his musicality and propulsive
rhythmic thrust, but it is worth remarking as he handles
the virtuoso demands of all three concertos effortlessly.
His slow movements are wistfully beautiful, woven with wonderfully
long-breathed phrasing. The cadenzas in each concerto – Hadelich's
own – are idiomatic and enthralling: from the honey-toned
cadenza of the C major concerto's first movement to the surprisingly
passionate cadenzas of the first movement of the A major
concerto and the slow movement of the G major concerto.
As for the music
itself, it should be self-recommending. As Keith Anderson's
booklet notes explain, of the nine concertos for violin once
attributed to Haydn, only four were really his and the second
of these has been lost. The three violin concertos on this
album, then, are all that is left to us.
for violin are the poor cousins of Mozart's violin concertos
as far as the catalogue is concerned, but they are far better
than their relative neglect suggests. All three concertos
are beautifully proportioned and ear-ticklingly engaging.
The C major concerto that opens the disc has a proud opening
movement and a witty finale in which the orchestra interacts
with the soloist's florid lines by repeating its agreement
emphatically, to with the rhythm and the sense of: “That
is just what I think. That is just what I think. That is
just what I think.”. The G major is quite lovely and the
A major is probably the highpoint of the set in its union
of poetry and high-wire thrills. When played as well as they
are here, these concertos are hard to resist.