SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

JOSEPH HAYDN: Concerti for Horn No. 1 in D & No. 2 in D; Divertimento a Tre; MICHAEL HAYDN/MOZART: Romance for Horn & String Q.; MICHAEL HAYDN: Adagio and Allegro Molto for Horn and Trombone – Soloists/ Concertgebouw Orch./Henk Rubingh – Channel Classics

If you’re looking for modern-instrument versions of this music, look no further.

Published on January 31, 2011

JOSEPH HAYDN: Concerti for Horn No. 1 in D & No. 2 in D; Divertimento a Tre; MICHAEL HAYDN/MOZART: Romance for Horn & String Q.; MICHAEL HAYDN: Adagio and Allegro Molto for Horn and Trombone – Soloists/ Concertgebouw Orch./Henk Rubingh – Channel Classics

JOSEPH HAYDN: Concerto for Horn No. 1 in D Major; Concerto for Horn No. 2 in D Major; Divertimento a Tre; MICHAEL HAYDN/MOZART: Romance for Horn and String Quartet; MICHAEL HAYDN: Adagio and Allegro Molto for Horn and Trombone from Serenade in D – Jasper de Waal, horn / Henk Rubingh and Marijn Mijnders, violin / Benedikt Enzler, cello/ Jörgen van Rijen, trombone/ Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra/ Henk Rubingh – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 30210, 55:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****1/2:

The brothers Haydn get together for a program of enlivening music mostly from the early Classical era. Joseph Haydn’s oft-recorded Concerto No. 1 of 1762 is from early in his years of service for the Esterházy family and was written specifically for one of the virtuoso horn players he personally brought on to build up the orchestra following the death of his first employer, Paul Anton, and the accession of music-loving Nikolaus, whom Haydn mostly contentedly served for the next twenty-eight years. The Divertimento a Tre for horn, violin, and cello of 1767 was probably written for Carl Franz, one of the virtuoso hornists that Haydn had hired earlier. Both works give the soloist quite a workout and make a generally brilliant effect, the Divertimento unfolding as a series of ever more virtuosic variations.

The so-called Concerto No. 2 is not contained in the catalog of Haydn’s works and may not have been written by him at all; possibly it is an early work by brother Michael. In any event, it seems to actually predate the First Concerto given certain stylistic features of the horn part. Whether by Haydn (either Haydn) or not, its dashing finale is as attractive as that of the First Concerto and recalls even more the field-and-stream origins of the horn.

Michael Haydn’s Adagio and Allegro Molto is taken from a lengthy serenade written in the same year as Joseph’s Divertimento. The intended soloist was Joseph Leutgeb, at the time principal horn of the Salzburg Court Orchestra, over which Michael presided as concertmaster and court composer. Later, Mozart would write his well-loved horn concerti for Leutgeb and later still, after Mozart’s death, Michael would arrange the Romance for Horn and String Quartet. The Adagio and Allegro Molto has some of the trappings of the galant style about it, especially the sweet-tempered Adagio. The horn and trombone make a particularly dulcet pair in both movements; this is a very pleasant listening experience and must have provided an enjoyable evening of music for Haydn’s noble patrons.

The Romance is something of an oddity. The notes to this recording speculate that Michael wrote it to celebrate a visit to Vienna by Leutgeb in 1795. According to this scenario, Leutgeb wanted to play one of the concerti that Mozart had written for him (No. 3, K. 447) but couldn’t recall the orchestral accompaniment. Michael obliged by writing a new accompaniment for string quartet. Michael actually did a nice job, but given the strangely highbred nature of the work, it might have been better to include Michael’s Horn Concertino instead, which would have filled out the disc more generously.

That’s really my only objection to this beautifully played, beautifully recorded program. The musicians all play on modern instruments, but they’re clearly informed by period-instrument practice. In fact, original-instruments players are becoming so proficient on their instruments and modern-instrument players so astute, that it’s often difficult to tell the difference. These performances certainly show a fine appreciation of Classical style, and Jasper de Waal plays this often-difficult music with such aplomb as to make it seem deceptively easy. Of course, a valveless horn would bring an extra period-authentic tang to the music, but if you’re looking for a version of the Haydn concertos on modern instruments, this is certainly the place to turn.

Channel Classics’ surround sound is, as usual, big—room-filling even—with a brightness and bite that give added piquancy to this music. A very recommendable offering.

– Lee Passarella




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