Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto for Horn no.1 in D, Hob.VIId:3 (1762) [15:08]
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Romance for Horn and String Quartet (after Mozart) [4:22]
Joseph HAYDN or Michael HAYDN ? 
Concerto for Horn no. 2 in D Hob.VIId:4 [13:53]
Joseph HAYDN
Divertimento a tre Hob.IV:5 (c.1767) [7:17]
Michael HAYDN  
and allegro molto for Horn and Trombone from Serenade in D [13:11]
Jasper de Waal (horn)
Jörgen van Rijen (trombone)
Henk Rubingh (violin: Romance, Divertimento) Marijn Mijnders (violin: Romance); Roland Krämer (viola: Romance); Benedikt Enzler (cello: Romance, Divertimento)
Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra/Henk Rubingh (leader)
rec. Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June and September 2009. DSD.

This recording is issued in Channel Classics’ First Desk series; Jasper de Waal has held that position as principal horn with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 2004. Additionally we have solo parts for the leader and for the principal trombonist, who has already featured on his own recording (CCSSA22305).

Haydn’s horn concertos are not nearly as well as known as Mozart’s; here we have what are variously known as No.1 or 3 and No.2 or 4, the second of which may be by his younger brother Michael - Channel Classics are hedging their bets on this one, speculating that it may be a work by the young Joseph or his brother. Otherwise we have a Divertimento in D by Joseph Haydn, a Romance for horn and string quartet which Michael Haydn composed after Mozart’s death and which owes so much to the slow movement of K447 that it’s listed here as a work of joint authorship and two movements from Michael Haydn’s Serenade in D - why not the whole work to bring the playing time up to a more reasonable length?

There’s less opportunity for the soloist to shine in Haydn than in the Mozart concertos but Jasper de Waal makes the most of his opportunities in No.1 (3). I think that Anthony Halstead, playing a natural horn, makes a riper sound on Nimbus NI5190 - review - and I prefer the period-instrument accompaniment that he receives from the Hanover Band and Roy Goodman. The main difference between the two performances comes in the adagio second movement, where the more leisurely tempo on Nimbus is very effective, especially as the allegro finale, taken at almost exactly the same speed on both versions, makes a more effective showing after the slower tempo for the preceding movement. I should add, however, that it’s one of those cases where I was quite happy with de Waal until I heard Halstead.

There’s more opportunity for the soloist to shine in the movement which Michael Haydn ‘cribbed’ from Mozart - it’s a meatier and more familiar solo part and he delivers an affective performance of it. Once again, however, I had in the back of my mind the recollection of a riper tone in performances of the equivalent Mozart movement. It was really unfair of me to listen to Denis Brain straight afterwards - recently reissued for the nth time on EMI Masters
6783282 and a superb bargain at around £8.00 or less - so I also listened to Anthony Pyatt with the ASMF and Neville Marriner (Warner Erato Apex 256468161-9), a budget price release which I recommended - review - particularly for steering a middle way between over-affective and underplayed accounts of this very movement. Both Brain and Pyatt produced a riper tone, despite the clear advantages of the new recording, heard from the stereo SACD layer, over the mono EMI and, comparatively, even over the Warner CD.

That Halstead recording would be my overall recommendation for Horn Concerto No.1 (3) but there’s another Nimbus recording which duplicates even more of the Channel Classics programme: on NI5010 Michael Thompson performs both Joseph Haydn horn concertos and the Divertimento a 3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Christopher Warren-Green; the coupling is Josef Haydn’s popular Trumpet Concerto, Hob.VIIe:1. Like Halstead and Goodman, Thompson and Warren-Green give a little more weight to the adagio of Hob.VIId:3 and they offer good performances of the other works, with John Wallace the able soloist in the Trumpet Concerto.

I listened to the Nimbus recording from the Naxos Music Library, so I don’t have the notes, but it appears that Hob.VIId:4 is attributed to Joseph Haydn there. No matter who the actual composer is, it’s well worth hearing and there’s not much to choose between the de Waal and Thompson recordings apart from the cadenzas - Thompson employs his own - and the availability of the Channel Classics version in SACD. In terms of ripeness of tone neither quite matches Halstead in in Hob.VIId:3 or Brain in the Mozart borrowing.

There’s one other coupling of the two Horn Concertos, Hob.VIId:3 and d:4, that you may wish to consider; on Hänssler 98.611 a ripe-toned Wilhelm Bruns (natural horn) and the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thomas Fey couple them with the ‘Horn Signal’ Symphony, No.31. If that’s the coupling that you are looking for - and it makes a logical programme - you need not hesitate. Thomas Fey sometimes adopts an idiosyncratic approach to Haydn but there’s nothing here to be wary of; I particularly liked the sprightly tempo for the first movement of Hob.VIId:4.

So it’s swings and roundabouts. Halstead produces a riper tone on Hob.VIId.3; he doesn’t include Hob.VIId.4 but the coupling there is also apt and desirable - Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No.31 with a prominent horn part and Michael Haydn’s undoubted Horn Concerto in D, P134. Bruns is equally adept on the natural horn and again offers a logical all-Joseph Haydn programme. Thompson offers a near-identical programme to de Waal but with the substitution of the Trumpet Concerto for the two short Michael Haydn works.

All four performances are good, though I think that Halstead’s and Brun’s extra ripeness of tone and the superb way in which they manipulate that crotchety beast the natural horn just place them joint top of this tree for me. I don’t wish, however, to exaggerate their superiority to de Waal and Thompson. Choice of coupling could be relied on to guide your choice.

All four recordings are good, even as heard from the Naxos Music Library in the case of the two Nimbus CDs and the Hänssler. Because I listened to them in that format, I hesitate to pronounce the Channel Classics recording superior but it is very good, especially as heard in SACD; as so often with this format the extra quality won’t strike you like a Road to Damascus revelation but it does open out the sound an important bit more.

Brian Wilson 

If the coupling suits, go ahead - but consider alternative couplings.

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