Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Harpsichord Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11 [20:02]
Violin Concerto in G major, Hob. VIIa:4 [19:42]
Concerto for violin and harpsichord in F major, Hob. XVIII:6 [19:35]
Stefano Montanari (violin); Ottavo Dantone (harpsichord)
Accademia Bizantina/Ottavo Dantone
rec. Sala Dantesca, Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna, February 2009. DDD
L’OISEAU-LYRE 478 2243 [59:20]
It is something of a surprise to hear Haydn’s keyboard concertos - particularly the D major work - played on the harpsichord. But in these hands it proves to be a pleasant and revealing surprise.
Although the CD’s sleeve-notes put forward the case that the D major concerto was intended for harpsichord as much as for fortepiano, this is unlikely. Composed in the early 1780s and bearing Mozart’s influence, the work seems fit for the ‘modern’ fortepiano. Besides, it was clearly referenced as a piano piece by Haydn in correspondence with his publishers. Nonetheless, Dantone’s decision to present it as a harpsichord showpiece does it no harm at all. Rather, it reveals more of the delicacy of the solo writing and helps to rebalance the orchestral accompaniment.
Dantone starts as he means to go on, attacking the opening allegro with gusto. A complex and dazzling cadenza by Dantone himself skilfully blends Haydn’s thematic material. But Accademia Bizantina are not passive bystanders. Their ethereal string sweeps in the first movement recall Mozart, while some fine woodwind interventions in the central adagio add extra dimension to Dantone’s refined, subdued playing. Theirs is a racy rendition of the well-known ‘Rondo all’ungarese’ finale. Although soloist and orchestra sound a little over-hasty, even coarse, in parts, this is a self-conscious decision to trace the music back to its rustic Hungarian roots.
By placing the grander D major concerto first, there is a slight sense of anti-climax with the other works on the disc - Haydn’s violin concerto in G and his violin and harpsichord concerto in F. These are lighter works, but thanks to skilful and appreciative playing by Dantone and violinist Stefano Montanari, their beauty and sensitivity are fully displayed.
Almost certainly written for the Esterhàzy orchestra’s leader Luigi Tomasini, the violin concerto is full of Italianate touches which Montanari lovingly develops, adding two of his own cadenzas in the first and second movements. He is ably partnered by Dantone in the final double concerto. The two musicians are clearly as one in their appreciation of this simple but elegant work, especially in the high-spirited presto finale.
The two musicians are clearly as one in their appreciation of this music.