Notes and Editorial Reviews
Spritely performances of real winners.
Perhaps it’s a terrible admission to make, but much as I love Haydn, I have never really warmed to his concertos. Here, I thought, was the father of the Symphony as we know it today, the String Quartet as we know it today, and the foundation of opera. OK, I know that Mozart had an hand in the development of all these forms but it was Haydn who got things going. Sure enough, there’s drama and poetry aplenty in the pieces mentioned but concertos? Where’s the dramatic interplay between soloist and orchestra? Where’s the element of man standing alone against the crowd?
Then along comes this disk and I suddenly have to re–think my position. It had never dawned on me that
the concept of protagonist and lynch mob hadn’t been invented at the time Haydn was writing his concerted works. So now I can see them in a different light for what they are – wonderful entertainment music with prominent parts for solo instruments.
I’m glad that I’ve been able to change my views and can now enjoy these works for they are delightful. The Horn Concerto which opens the disk is full of good things, the writing for horn is certainly virtuosic – the range which Haydn demands of his performer is phenomenal – and here Babanov is quite happy whether he plays in the highest or lowest registers. Haydn goes to both extremes and exploits the full range of the instrument. The work also includes two quite taxing cadenzas. It is thought that the work was written for Joseph Leutgeb, the recipient of Mozart’s four Horn Concertos - he must have been some player! And what a lucky man to have five such magnificent works created for him!
The Harpsichord Concerto is full of great jokes. I especially love the jumping frog impression which the keyboard undertakes at 1:37 in the first movement. There’s lots of interplay between soloist and orchestra, more than in the wind concertos, but this is probably because Haydn knew that his soloist wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the accompaniment as easily as in the other works. The slow movement contains many little jokes with grace notes cheekily sticking their noses into the serious business of tunefulness. The finale is simply a fast romp.
The Double Concerto is thought to have started life as a work for organ. It is considered to have been performed for the solemn profession of Therese Keller, Haydn’ future sister–in–law, as a nun in 1756 – the proof being that the range used by the fortepiano is restricted to the range of the contemporary Viennese organ. Certainly, this is a more serious work, more stately, than the others contained herein. The two soloists never engage in overt display and more often than not they connect in harmonious duet. Rather lovely it is, too. The finale is fast and joyful, but there’s still a serious undertone to the music.
Thanks to the solo trumpet repertoire being quite small, until contemporary composers started writing for it, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto has become very well known. It’s a true virtuoso work with a gorgeous slow movement and a racy finale.
The performances here are first class, with lots of life and a real period feel. There’s nothing prissy or restrained about them - they’re really very alive. Thoroughly enjoyable.
I must make two points. First of all, in almost every movement, for reasons best known to himself, Müller–Brühl insists on making huge rallentandi at the ends of movements. This ruins the flow of what has gone before. It is a blemish on the performances.
My second point is rather more important. The sound is in Naxos’s best manner – bright and clear. In the Trumpet Concerto the balance between soloist and orchestra is perfect. The whole sound is well focused and there is a good relationship between listener and performer. However, in the other three works the recording is very close which slightly distorts the sound-picture as everything comes across as being overblown. The obviously small string orchestra ends up sounding like a small orchestra which has been over–amplified. This is most noticeable in the slow movements where a more intimate atmosphere is required than in the faster pieces. If you turn the volume down in the hope of taming the sound you lose some of the presence of the performances. This is a shame for these are spritely performances which are real winners and will do much to make these works better known to the public.
This is well worth having, despite my reservations about the sound. If you can tame it ever so slightly – it doesn’t need much – you’ll have a really good time listening to very pleasurable music.
-- Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Horn no 1 in D major, H 7d no 3 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Dmitri Babanov (French Horn)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1762; Eszterhazá, Hungary
Concerto for Keyboard in D major, H 18 no 2 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Harald Hoeren (Harpsichord)
Cologne Chamber Orchestra
Written: by 1767; Austria
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