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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1808)
Concertos for 2 lire organizzate

Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIh:1 (arr. for 2 recorders and orchestra) [14:54]
Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIh:2 (arr. for flute, oboe and orchestra) [14:28]
Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIh:3 (arr. for 2 flutes and orchestra) [15:46]
Concerto in F major, Hob.VIIh:4 (arr. for flute, oboe and orchestra) [15:39]
Concerto in F major, Hob.VIIh:5 (arr. for 2 recorders and orchestra) [12:44]
Daniel Rothert, Philip Spätling (recorders); Benoît Fromanger, Ingo Nelken (flutes); Christian Hommel (oboe)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
rec. WDR Studio, Stolberger Straße, Köln, Germany, 23-26 October 2007.  DDD.
NAXOS 8.570481 [73:31]
Experience Classicsonline

How many compositions can you name by major classical composers for instruments which soon afterwards became obsolete?  Haydn has his fair share with these concertos for two lire organizzate and his baryton trios, then there are Bach’s music for the pedal-harpsichord, Vivaldi’s concertos for the tromba marina, Mozart’s music for the glass harmonica and the basset clarinet, music by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for the mechanical clock, Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata ...  Enough, then, to maintain a cottage industry producing modern copies, which has already happened in the case of the basset clarinet, avoiding the necessity, where it is employed, of transposing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.  I seem to remember, too, a 1960s DGG recording of Mozart’s music for glass harmonica played on a replica.  Perhaps, also, someone could license the master tapes of the 1960s Oryx recordings of Bach on the pedal-harpsichord.
Modern copies of the baryton do exist – there’s even a clip on Youtube demonstrating it – and recordings of the baryton trios appear, for example, in the recent Brilliant Classics Haydn box set, but the lira or lyra organizzata, a kind of one-man-band, a hurdy-gurdy attached to a small chamber organ, has been less fortunate, though working reproductions do exist, in the V&A Museum, for example, and it’s even possible to hear some short extracts of Haydn’s music played on such instruments.  Usually the music is played nowadays, if at all – I believe that this is the only current recording – using pairs of wind instruments.
Like the baryton works, written for his Esterházy patron, the concertos for lire organizzate were commissioned, in this case by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, an aficionado of the instrument.  It has to be admitted that the music is pleasant enough, but rather small beer, apart from track 8 (the slow movement of the third concerto), later rejigged for the ‘Military’ Symphony, No.100.   And, though the performances are well worth hearing, King Ferdinand would hardly have been likely to enjoy them in this form.  Woodwind instruments, however well varied in combination among the five works, cannot do full justice to the music – where is the drone element provided by the strings of the hurdy-gurdy part of the setup?  The reception of Helmut Müller-Brühl’s Haydn performances for Naxos has been somewhat variable, but they have mostly been thoroughly reliable, and this well-recorded disc is no exception as far as it can go without the correct solo instruments.
Just about all of Haydn’s music is unfailingly tuneful; this is mature music from the mid 1780s, roughly contemporaneous with the Paris symphonies; completists will want the recording in this bi-centenary year of his death but, if you have yet to make the acquaintance of some of his 107+ symphonies, I’d go there first – you could do a great deal worse in most cases than Naxos’s own recordings of these, now gathered into a giant box set for around £90 – or, even better value when it appears in February 2009, Decca’s 33-CD set with the Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Doráti (478 1221, around £50 for a short time).  And if you don’t know the two wonderful cello concertos, in D and C, and the first violin concerto, those works should be more of a priority than the music here.  Unless Philips restore one or both of the Gendron recordings of the cello concertos, as they surely must – the Concerto in D as soloist with Casals conducting is a real classic though, unfortunately, paired with the inauthentic Grutzmacher version of Boccherini – the budget-price Deutsche Harmonia Mundi version on 74321 935482 is both inexpensive and recommendable.  Gendron’s later version of the concerto in C, coupled with the (authentic) Boccherini in G was last seen on a budget-price Philips Concert Classics; look out for second-hand copies, even with the rather gash cover and the short playing time of 45:39 (422 481-2, with the LSO and Raymond Leppard).  Adrian Smith thought Kliegel on Naxos 8.555041 an absolute winner in the two concertos in D and the one in C.  That earlier Naxos recording shares the same orchestra and conductor with this CD and both are well filled at over 73 minutes.
The new recording comes with two different sets of notes, in English by Keith Anderson, informative as usual, if rather brief, and in German at slightly greater length and equally informatively, by Silke Schloen; the latter adds information about a proposed second visit to Naples which never transpired.  Naxos usually have an appropriate contemporary painting to illustrate the cover, but the current Haydn Concerto Series, of which four more recordings are advertised in the insert, all employ photographs of palaces, in this case of the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin.
An attractive recording, then, which one could hardly dislike, but far from essential Haydn listening.
Brian Wilson

Haydn Symphonies and Concertos on Naxos page 


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