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Acte Prealable Polish CDs

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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob.VIIb1 [23:08]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major, Hob.VIIb2 [23:52]
RaphaŽl Pidoux (cello)
Jeune Orchestre de l’Abbaye aux Dames de Saintes
rec. live (?), 2018, Thť‚tre Auditorium, Poitiers, France

I didn’t think I’d heard of RaphaŽl Pidoux before, but it turns out that he is the cellist of the renowned Trio Wanderer, so I have certainly heard his playing before. This recording, I believe, is of a concert held in Poitiers with the youth orchestra based in Saintes, though any applause has been edited out. Pidoux says in his brief contribution to the booklet notes that he “offered the Jeune Orchestre de l’Abbaye to burn the Haydn concertos onto a CD in order to keep memory of our encounter.” The concert also included a Haydn symphony (No. 22), and given the paucity of the running time of the CD, one wonders why this wasn’t included.

The 25-strong orchestra plays with gut strings, and includes a harpsichord, which is quite prominent in the soundscape. I normally associate a period instrument performance with quicker tempos, and while these sub-24 minute readings are the quickest in my collection, the overall timings are misleading. They are unduly influenced by the Adagios which are certainly not lingered over, and lose some of their beautiful poetry in the process. The outer movements, by contrast, are slower than a number of other versions I own, and are rather lacking in energy and dynamic variation from both soloist and ensemble. The opening of the finale of the C major concerto shows what might have been, but the sparkle shown in the first 30 seconds is soon lost.

This is a youth orchestra so one shouldn’t be too harsh in judgement. They certainly play the music well enough, but the overall effect isn’t as uplifting as it can be. I have now probably made enemies of all the families of the players, but this has been produced as a commercial recording, and thus goes into battle in a crowded field. It undoubtedly comes up short both in performance and value for money.

The notes, written by the orchestra’s director, concentrate on the historical background to the two works, which is fine, and the sound quality is certainly good; the Poitiers Auditorium is described as having outstanding acoustics. The pricing of downloads is a topic that Brian Wilson rightly complains about frequently in his newsletters, and I wholeheartedly support him. This release typifies the absurdity of the situation. On both Presto and Amazon, buying the tracks individually (as in putting them in your shopping cart one by one) is substantially cheaper than buying the album, even though of course it is the same thing. Go figure.

For those associated with the orchestra, it will be a fine memento, but for the rest of us, it can’t possibly compete.

David Barker

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