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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIa:1 (1765?) [17:46]
Violin Concerto in A major, Hob.VIIa:3 (1765?) [23:03]
Violin Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIa:4 (1769?) [19:31]
Augustin Hadelich (violin)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, Germany, 15-17 May 2007.
NAXOS 8.570483 [60:20]
Experience Classicsonline

Helmut Müller-Brühl 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.
Haydn's concertos 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.
Tim Perry

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