Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major Hob VIIb:1 [24:02]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major Hob VIIb:2 [24:42]
Minuets Nos. 1, 6, 11 Hob IX:16 [7:18]
The Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra/Ivan Monighetti (cello)
rec. Witold Lutosławski Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw, February 2009
DUX 0663 [56:03]

This is not the first time that Ivan Monighetti has recorded the two Haydn concertos. The first time was on Harmonia Mundi with the Akademie für Alte Musik of Berlin. I have not heard that version, but it would have to be very good indeed to match the present disc. The outstanding quality here is the vivid and individual approach from soloist and orchestra, always alive to the changing character of the music from bar to bar and note to note. These are no mere read-throughs, with an orchestra sounding bored with what can be for them at times somewhat repetitive accompaniments. This is much more a chamber music approach with the young orchestra - all under thirty - listening and responding to every turn in the character of the soloist’s part. No performances that I have heard or taken part in have matched these for their sheer inventiveness and understanding of the fertility of Haydn’s genius. All of this is enhanced by Monighetti’s amazing technique, especially in the high passages in which both concertos abound.

Not everything is perfect. The soloist obviously regards cadenzas as being an opportunity to show to an even greater extent what he feels about the music. This leads to cadenzas that not only quote from other music, in particular Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth symphonies, but also in the first movement of the D major Concerto to include parts for two horns. Whilst I appreciate the (later) precedent of Beethoven’s use of timpani in the piano version of his Violin Concerto, it has the fatal defect of immediately removing all possible pretence that the cadenza is the soloist’s spontaneous reaction to and comment on the main part of the movement. The first time I heard the cadenzas I was fascinated by them - and they are certainly carefully and cleverly put together - but they do not lend themselves to repeated listening.

That may decide the matter for you. There are many performances on disc of these works without such potential annoyances and this may put these out of court for you. However that would be to deprive yourself of some superlative music-making. The sheer energy and imagination of the performances is unique in my experience. I note that Monighetti was a pupil of Rostropovich at the Moscow Conservatory, and the style of these two artists does have much in common in its responsiveness to the music and ability to change tone colour and style in an instant.

The disc opens and closes with two Minuets, and another separates the two concertos. Although one might reasonably complain of somewhat short measure the result is a disc which can be played right through with none of the feeling of excess which you can get when listening to a series of concertos in succession. The recording is clear with a good balance between soloist and orchestra. All in all, this would be a very distinguished disc at any time but is particularly welcome at the end of the Haydn anniversary year.

John Sheppard