Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Cello Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIb:1 [23:20]
Cello Concerto in D major, Hob.VIIb:2 [25:50]
Christophe Coin (cello)
Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
rec. October 1982, Kingsway Hall, London L’OISEAU-LYRE 478 0025 [49:10]
When this 1983 recording was re-issued in 2008, Christopher Hogwood, the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) was still alive. At the time of the recording, Christophe Coin, the soloist in these cello concertos by Haydn, wasn’t well known and hadn’t, quite yet, co-founded the Quatuor Mosaïques. It was the advent of the historically informed performance (HIP) heyday. Now, in 2015, it feels like time travel; if you ask why I am reviewing the disc only now, well don’t … the disc must have slipped behind the radiator. I embarked on it and emerged marvelling at how great the very best in their craft — Coin and the AAM under Hogwood in this case—sounded over three decades ago, when generally so many strides have been made in HIP-standards since.
Sure, there are infelicities of very, very minor proportions that might not find their way onto a carefully post-produced recording today … a slightly pinched high note or three. The impression is still one of expert skill, vivaciousness and dead-on accuracy. These concertos could be — and have been — performed faster in the last three decades but without direct comparison, Coin & Co sound zippy and bracing and ahead of their time. The performances are, without a particularly great field of HIP recordings of both concertos to fight off, absolutely competitive today. That’s decidedly not meant as damnation-by-faint-praise.
What competition is there, anyway? More than I remembered, but partly because much of it simply isn’t memorable. In 1967 Jacqueline DuPré and in 1975 Mstislav Rostropovich dragged these concertos onto the mainstream scene with their recordings — she with the English Chamber Orchestra (C major) and the London Symphony Orchestra (D major), he with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Iona Brown (EMI). The latter is a classic Rostropovich recording, but I picked it off my shelf with a little trepidation after years of not having listened to it. No worrying was needed: It has aged well and has a sunny, feel-good way about it; DuPré’s recording has aged comparatively badly. Rostropovich doesn’t play it up as a romantic concerto quite as much as, say the really young Han-Na Chang with Giuseppe Sinopoli (EMI, and still a lot of fun, really) or other ilk. As for the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields it isn’t nearly as boring as the reputation it eventually attained but has only recently begun to shed again.
The first and foremost competition to the Coin-Hogwood re-issue, if one wishes to think about it in such unmusical terms, is that of Jean-Guihen Queyras whose recording with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is absolutely a marvel and would be my first choice, HIP or not. The perhaps too-reverberant Pieter Wispelwey recording with Florilegium (Channel Classics) is another favourite. Among new releases I haven’t heard the one by Maximilian Hornung — a cellist that used to be with the BRSO but who has graduated to a solo career, since — is the one that looks most enticing. For the occasional, admittedly and surprisingly, rare times I will turn to these concertos, I’ll be happy to return to Christophe Coin and the gang’s as one of two or three accounts in permanent rotation.