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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Music for Prince Esterházy and the King of Naples
CD 1
6 Scherzandi (1761?)
Scherzando No. 2 in C major, Hob. II:34 [8:45]
Scherzando No. 1 in F major, Hob. II:33 [6:55]
Scherzando No. 3 in D major, Hob. II:35 [9:00]
Scherzando No. 4 in G major, Hob. II:36 [9:24]
Scherzando No. 5 in E major, Hob. II:37 [8:17]
Scherzando No. 6 in A major, Hob. II:38 [8:44]
CD 2
Baryton Octets (1775)
Divertimenti a otto voci for baryton, 2 violins,
viola, violoncello, violone and 2 horns
Divertimento in D major, Hob. X:2 [17:45]
Baryton Octet in G major, Hob. X:5 [14:18]
Divertimento in A major, Hob. X:3 [16:31]
CD 3
Divertimento [Quintet] in D major, Hob. X:10 [13:39]
Baryton Octet in G major, Hob. X:4 [17:48]
Divertimento in D major, Hob. X:1 [15:49]
Divertimento in A major, Hob. X:6 [13:10]
Divertimento in G major, Hob. X:12 [12:53]
CD 4
Concerti a Due Lire - for the King of Naples (1786)
for flute, oboe, 2 horns, 2 violins, 2 violas, violoncello and violone
Concerto No. 2 in G major, Hob. VIIh:2 [12:08]
Concerto No. 5 in F major, Hob. VIIh:5 [11:19]
Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIh:1 [12:23]
Concerto No. 3 in G major, Hob. VIIh:3 [12:59]
Concerto No. 4 in F major, Hob. VIIh:4 [13:20]
CD 5
Notturni for the King of Naples (1790)
Notturno No. 1 in C major, Hob. II:25 [15:16]
Notturno No. 2 in F major, Hob. II:26 [10:51]
Notturno No. 3 in C major, Hob. II:32 [12:30]
Notturno No. 4 in C major, Hob. II:31 [11:52]
CD 6
Notturni for the King of Naples (1790) continued
Notturno No. 5 in C major, Hob. II:29 [8:39]
Notturno No. 6 in G major, Hob. II:30 (fragment) [8:08]
Notturno No. 7 in F major, Hob. II:28 [16:57]
Notturno No. 8 in G major, Hob. II:27 [15:39]
Haydn Sinfonietta Wien/Manfred Huss
rec. 1992-1995, Casino Zögernitz, Vienna
BIS-CD-1796/98 [6 CDs: 52:10 + 63:11 + 60:41 + 63:10 + 51:27 + 50:22] 


Experience Classicsonline

his is one of a number of bumper box sets from the BIS label, in this instance the box proudly announces a price based on 6 discs for the price of 3, and so this promises to be another genuine bargain. Haydn Sinfonietta Wien’s recordings of these less well known of Haydn’s works were originally produced and released by the Koch/Schwann label, with the exception of Notturni Nos 2, 4, 5 & 8, which, although recorded during the same period, were never released. For this collection the original recordings have been re-mastered and re-packaged by BIS, fitting the 6 discs into the equivalent of a double jewel case, but with plenty of those magic fold-out trays to hold everything securely in the minimum space.

In connection with the 2009 bicentenary of the death of Joseph Haydn, BIS Records and the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien have entered into a collaboration which has already seen the appearance of the complete overtures, and the opera Acide. The present set contains works written for the house of Esterházy, Haydn’s long-time employers, and for the King of Naples: from the Six Scherzandi, a set of ‘miniature symphonies’ probably composed in 1761, to the Eight Notturni for the King of Naples, composed around 1790.

CD 1 covers the Scherzandi, written when Haydn was aged 29, had recently become married and had also signed a contract to become ‘Vice-Kapellmeister’ in the service of Paul Anton I, Prince Esterházy. The pieces where conceived as miniature symphonies, and given that title in Haydn’s own catalogue of his works. Each has a four movement structure: Allegro-Minuet-Adagio-Presto, the only striking instrumental oddity being the absence of a viola part. The movements are almost universally compact, with only one or two of the Adagios creeping towards the 4-minute mark even with all repeats observed. The major keys indicate and deliver a light, energetic and sunny character to most of the music, through there are expressive contrasts – once again, the Adagio movements having some of the heft of earlier baroque examples. The Haydn Sinfonietta Wien gets stuck into these pieces with great gusto, and the effect is like having a blast of fresh air leaping from your loudspeakers.

Discs 2 and 3 cover the Baryton Octets. The Baryton is a stringed instrument which belongs to the gamba family, with a medium-high pitch relative to a tenor gamba or the upper register of the cello. These pieces were written for the private use of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy I, and the chances are they would rarely have been performed before a conventional audience. The unusual sound of these pieces comes in part for the restrained instrumentation, designed not to cover the fairly soft sound of the baryton, but also the baryton itself, which has six silver-coated gut strings and nine metal drone strings which resonate sympathetically to the played notes and give the instrument its individual singing tone. This can lead to some remarkable effects – even creating clashing tones, sounding on after short, louder notes have been played. This can clearly be heard in the ‘silences’ of the Adagio of the first octet Hob.X:2 and elsewhere. At the time these pieces were written this would have been a seriously old-fashioned instrument, but Haydn succeeds in integrating the current Viennese Classical style with great skill, so that we have a collection of seriously anachronistic pieces which, with their often highly demanding horn calls and gruff discussions between the baryton and the double bass, are never less than highly entertaining. Not much of the faster paced music is particularly emotionally searching, but there are some beautiful moments amongst the slower movements. Take the Adagio of Hob.X:6, whose opening theme could almost be a funeral march, taking on a more pastoral feel with its pizzicato bass and mid-voice figurations in the second section. This feel of contrast and simmering emotional undercurrents is an indication of the Sturm und Drang period in Haydn’s music, which was coming to an end at the time these pieces were written. This sense of expressive experimentation in a context of the restrictive framework of the Prince’s baryton, an instrument whose limitations in terms of remote key signatures can’t have been particularly inviting, make these rare pieces something of a marvel.

The Concerti a due Lire were written as the result of a commission from the Neapolitan royal family, all part of the monarchy’s indulgence in painting and all kinds of artistic creativity of the highest order. The ‘lira organizzata’ was a development of the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument typically popular in Naples. This was King Ferdinand’s instrument of choice, and the second part would more often than not have been played by the instrument’s inventor, Austrian diplomat Norbert Hadrava. No such instrument survives to the present day, and the parts are taken in this recording by the flute and oboe – Haydn’s own insurance policy for works which had a built-in redundancy due to the nature of their solo instruments. Ferdinand IV’s commission was quite specific in terms of key signatures, the duration of movements and the melodic character of the pieces, but Haydn remained his own man – mixing up the instrumentation of the accompaniment and creating works of lightness and clarity, but also of great vibrancy. The Notturni for the King of Naples have a similar character, also having been written for two ‘lire’ soloists. The instrumental colour is transformed however, as the scoring now includes clarinets, which make a relatively rare appearance here in Haydn’s vast catalogue. Vienna was the natural home of the clarinet at the time, and Haydn was in any case more enthusiastic about oboes as melodic instruments in terms of his orchestral output. Manfred Huss, in his own booklet notes, sums these pieces up as “excellent examples of eighteenth century ‘entertainment music’ – music with lively rhythms and catchy themes, worthy counterparts to Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik.” Haydn was clearly happy with the results, recycling some of the movements into later symphonies. Alert listeners may also note a similarity to the opening of the Lyra Concerto No.5, starting disc 6, with the finale of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony which came two years later. This is a fairly typical Classical melodic gesture however, so I feel an allowance for coincidence can be made in this and similar cases.

As you would imagine, all of these pieces are works of the utmost charm and subtly expressed sophistication. You can listen to them as musical wallpaper – no doubt much as they might have been consumed when freshly written. If however you open your ears and fully take in the reality of Haydn’s inventiveness and sparkling good humour, as well as the little surprises he always seems to have in store, then you can lose yourself in a verdant and extremely rewarding musical world. My particular favourites are the unusual sounding Baryton Octets and the freshly youthful Scherzandi, but you can take your pick and still have the rest as ‘free’ discs. The Haydn Sinfonietta Wien and Manfred Huss are an excellent team, and produce performances of inextinguishable verve and stunning technical élan. BIS’s packaging has a typically high class feel, as do the superb recordings, and so this box has to be considered a ‘must have’ for all Haydn fans and enthusiasts for the less well trodden byways of high-classical chamber music.

Dominy Clements


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