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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Cello concerto in C major, Hob. VIIb/1 (1761-1765) [25:52]
Cello concerto in D major, Hob. VIIb/2 (1783) [25:55]
Harriet Krijgh (cello)
Vienna Kammerphilharmonie/Claudius Traunfellner
rec. March-April 2012, Liszt-Konzerthalle, Raiding. DDD
CAPRICCIO C5139 [51:47]

Of the two concertos on this disc, the D major was until the 1960s regarded as “the” Haydn cello concerto. Then in 1961 the C major concerto was discovered in the National Museum in Prague. It is thought to predate the D major concerto by about twenty years, and is of a quite different character, being much more animated and outgoing. The D major is actually the more difficult, with a high-lying solo part that is a real test of a cellist’s intonation. Along with the Boccherini and Leonardo Leo concertos - and, slightly later, those by Romberg - these concertos are major works in a period when the cello was just coming into its own as a solo instrument. They are performed here by the young Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh with the Vienna Kammerphilharmonie. Cello tragics will take special note of her instrument, made in 1690 by Hendrik Jacobs in Amsterdam.
 
The C major concerto sets off at a near ideal tempo, calm yet playful, and the orchestral playing generally is crisp and poised. Although there is no indication that period instruments are used, the influence of the historically-informed approach can be heard in the careful delineation of the rests and finely graduated dynamics. Krijgh has a warm, woody tone which is attractive. The slow movement has an intimate address, rising to an intense climax. Krijgh’s bow changes are delightfully smooth and her intonation secure throughout. The solo part in the lively finale features cleanly played chords and agile bowing. The orchestra plays an ideal support role, staying in the picture but never drowning the solo line.
 
Had the D major concerto been on the same level this disc would have been a winner, but unfortunately it is a bit of a let-down. The Allegro moderato feels a bit sluggish, and gives the impression that the soloist is not really engaging with the music. Krijgh’s phrasing is again finely sculpted, and she varies her tone in the extended arpeggio passages by bowing closer to the bridge. Her technique is more than up to the challenges this work poses, but her upper strings seem to lack projection in the finale. The orchestral contribution is again finely done. The recording is a bit distant, adding to an occasionally rather disengaged feeling.
 
I went back to a couple of old favourites for comparison. Jacqueline du Pré recorded these concertos in the 1960s with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The C major work was the only one released at the time, coupled with the dated Grützmacher “arrangement” of the Boccherini Concerto in B flat. EMI released both Haydn concertos in an economical box set in the 1980s, with other standard repertoire including her classic Elgar concerto with Barbirolli. The present Capriccio version has a lot going for it; du Pré plays with her usual conviction, and the accompaniment is stylish, with an attractive bloom on the recorded sound. Pierre Fournier’s recording of the D major concerto with the Festival Strings Lucerne shows that it is possible to invest this unassuming work with personality. This impression is borne out by the timings, with Fournier getting through the first movement over a minute quicker than Krijgh. The backward wind balances and heftier orchestral playing mark this out as a performance from the pre-HIP era, but Fournier’s solo has great humanity.
 
The C major concerto is excellent, but the D major lacks personality.
 
Guy Aron