The Lira, the favourite instrument of King Ferdinand IV of Naples, was a cross between a hurdy-gurdy
and a chamber organ. This instrument is now obsolete so in order
for us to hear these charming pieces Naxos gives us Haydn’s complete
works for Lira in arrangements for 2 recorders (nos.1 and 5),
flute and oboe (nos.2 and 4), two flutes (no.3). It has sensibly
avoided our hearing the same sonority in two consecutive works;
this would, I am sure, have led to boredom brought about by too
much of the same thing.
Each of these five works are in three movements – fast/slow/fast –
and each is light and frothy. Oddly, even though these works
weren’t written for the solo instruments employed here the writing,
especially that taken by the oboe, is pure Haydn. It couldn’t
have been written by anyone else.
The works happily follow one another without any special event crossing
the musical horizon. Perhaps one shouldn’t listen to the whole
disk in one sitting. But then you get the shock of your life
with the slow movement of the 3rd Concerto.
To all intents and purposes it’s the slow movement of the 100th
Symphony, but without the percussion! It’s quite delightful
too and is followed by a more serious finale than those of its
predecessors. After this the 4th Concerto
seemed much more sober. On the other hand the abiding impression
is works that are really good humoured, and good natured works.
So I played it again the next day and discovered that it was
the seriousness of the slow movement of No.3 which had
coloured my feelings. The last two concertos are as delightful,
and spontaneously enjoyable, as the rest.
I first met the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, and its conductor, Helmut
when reviewing the Naxos
complete Haydn Symphonies set. He directs sprightly and easy-going
accounts of these works, but, as in the Symphonies, he occasionally
insists on making huge rallentandi at cadence points, and not
necessarily at the conclusion of the fast movements.
five soloists give very enjoyable, and musical, performances
of these pieces and one would love to hear them all in more
substantial works for their instruments. Despite my small niggle
about the rallentandi, and the fact that although the recording
is crisp and clear, it does leave the violins sometimes sounding
a bit wiry above the stave, this is a disk worth having. It
fills in another gap in our knowledge of this always interesting
see also Review
by Brian Wilson