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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Organ Concerto No. 1 in C [23:42]
Organ Concerto No. 6 in F for Violin and Organ “Double Concerto” [20:03]
Organ Concerto No. 2 in D [25:43]
Iain Quinn (organ)
Sophie Gent (violin)
Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen
rec. 2019, St. Mary’s Parish Church, South Woodford, London
CHANDOS CHAN20118 [69:41]

There is a problem with Haydn’s organ concertos and that is that the composer did not stipulate which of his keyboard concertos was destined to be performed on which instrument. This has led to recordings of most of his concertos being available on different kinds of instrument. However, as Marc Vignal, in his exemplary booklet note points out, deciding which concerto was for the organ can be derived by a combination of examining the works sonorities as well as examining historical evidence, hence the concertos performed here are usually regarded as those that Haydn originally intended to be performed on the organ. Even then this leads to other performers choosing to perform some concertos on different instruments, for example Christine Schornsheim for Capriccio (C5022) chooses to perform the D Major Concerto No. 2 on harpsichord. Whilst Harald Hoeren for Naxos (8.570482) not only plays No. 2 on a harpsichord, but also performs the keyboard part of the “Double Concerto” No. 6, on a fortepiano, so feelings are still mixed as to what to play on what instrument. Either way, the performances here are first rate and suit being played on the organ for this recording.

I have a number of recordings of Haydn’s organ concertos, but only one that challenges this present recording for performance practice, that by Anton Holzapfel in the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition (95594), where they appear on original instruments, although I do have more versions performed by larger scale ensembles. I have enjoyed all the performances that I have heard, perhaps because it is said that these concertos were the only ones Haydn composed for himself to perform but, for me, they have a character all of their own. They are the composer's earliest concertos, yet his scope for inventiveness shines through, perhaps because he was writing for himself to play, but they certainly have a style, where, although the organ is embedded into the body of the music with no real cadenzas to talk about, the organ part still shines through.

The performances are glowing with Iain Quinn seemingly sharing an affinity with Jonathan Cohen, with the result being a very enjoyable 70 minutes of music. This is further enhanced when joined by Sophie Gent in the “Double Concerto”, with her performance being more in keeping than that of Susanne Scholz with Holzapfel, enjoyable though her performance is. I particularly like Quinn’s performance of the Concerto in D Major, strongly articulated and full of character, I have always preferred this concerto over the C Major, something that Quinn expertly brings out here.

Chandos is making Concerto No. 10 available if you purchase the album as a download. I haven’t done so, mainly due to my hoping that this might feature on a further volume of the organ concertos from the same forces, but from what I have heard of the performance, it is characterised with the same wonderful playing from Quinn and Arcangelo.

The organ employed in this recording, despite only being built in 1969 by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer Ltd, has a light yet warm sound that suits this performance and sounds in keeping with Haydn’s music, although some information about the instrument would have been good, even the photograph that adorns the booklet is of Haydn’s own instrument at Eisenstadt. The string sound of Arcangelo is very good and they make an excellent match for Quinn and the organ, all expertly directed by Jonathan Cohen. The recorded sound is bright and natural which leads to a finer recording than the Brilliant, whilst as already stated the booklet notes are excellent. Another volume of the organ concertos please, is my plea to Chandos.
Stuart Sillitoe

Previous review: Marc Rochester

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