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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Concerto in C major, H. VIIa/1 [20:33]
Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major, Hob.I:105 [22:46]
Members of The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra: Ronald Leonhard (cello); Barbara Winters (oboe); David Breidenthal (bassoon)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Pinchas Zukerman (violin)
rec. 1977, American Legion Hall, Hollywood, USA
PENTATONE PTC5186224 SACD  [43:24]

For me, Haydn is guaranteed to brighten up even the most cheerless of days. Both these works radiate an affable disposition, and certainly leave me feeling upbeat and elated.

The Violin Concerto in C major was composed in the 1760s for Luigi Tomasini, a well-known violinist of the time, who became the concertmaster of the Esterházy orchestra. It bears a personal dedication in the composer’s handwriting ‘fatto per il Luigi’. The concerto provided the violinist with an opportunity to show off his skills, with double-stops, fast runs and daring arpeggios etched into the score. Zukerman injects energy and joie de vivre, inspiring his players to give a reading of spontaneity and freshness. His warm, burnished tone suits this music and his instinctive phrasing, pristine intonation and technical command carries the day. The rhythmic energy of the finale sets the seal on an intoxicating account.

The Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major dates from Haydn’s first visit to London in 1791-92. His remarkable success had sparked some rivalry between himself and his former pupil Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), whose concertante symphonies had been extremely popular. Not one to be outdone, Haydn threw his hat into the ring with this work for violin, oboe, cello, bassoon and orchestra. It was an unmitigated success when it was premiered in March 1792.

Everything bodes well from the start with ebullience, youthful vitality, elegance and charm. It’s a delightful work, and the sun shines throughout. The soloists are members of the orchestra, presumably the principals of the relevant sections. They are excellent in every way, allowing us to share in the joy of their music-making, which they deliver with alacrity. The performance is superbly engineered with an ideal balance struck between all concerned. The recording focuses well on each individual soloist and the impression is of an amiable and good-humoured conversation.

This is the latest release in Pentatone’s ‘Re-mastered Classics’ series and, as far as I am aware, these DG recordings from 1977 are making their first outing on CD. Pentatone’s aim is to cherry-pick outstanding performances of artistic merit from the back catalogue. The original multi-channel tapes couldn’t reach their full potential at the time of recording, due to the limitations in the playback systems of the day. Now, with the advances in technology, these are re-mastered and issued as Super Audio CDs.

Many will welcome back these captivating accounts in top of the range sound, and I thank Pentatone for their sterling efforts.

Stephen Greenbank


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