Trumpet Cto; Horn Cto No. 1; D
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Haydn' popular Trumpet Concerto is best known for its thrilling first movement cadenza and brilliant and inventive Rondo finale.The Horn Concerto No. 1 is also notable for the technical demands made on the soloist, not least the large octave leaps in
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The Horn Concerto in D major is an awful performance. I hope I never forget to skip those three tracks whenever i chance to play this CD again. The modern french horn played by Dmitri Babanov is a muffled travesty of a 'corno da caccia'. I have to admit that the revival of the historical Baroque natural horn hasn't been as fabulously successful as the revival of the Baroque trumpet or bassoon. The players haven't proven their case 100%. But there's no excuse for performing 18th C horn parts with so little sensitivity to the timbres and articulations that would make this music thrilling.
The Cologne Chamber Orchestra was founded in the 1920s. It's another ensemble that professes these days to perform in a "historically informed' style on modern instruments. That decision may be forgivable for appearances in modern concert halls, but 'you can't keep your cake and eat it, too" as people say; on this CD, the two concertos for keyboard demonstrate the futility of such an effort. On the Harpsichord Concerto in D major, the orchestra tromps all over the harpsichord, both in simple dynamics and in lead-heavy timbre. The effect is to suggest that Haydn was deluded even to suppose that a harpsichord could hold its own in a concerto format, but in fact the composition is carefully crafted to expose the harpsichord at its elegant best. An authentic performance of this piece is a balmy pleasure.
The Double Concerto in F major for Violin and Fortepiano is better balanced and on the whole more satisfactory in interpretation, but still short of my expectations. Harald Hoeren has a precise, witty touch on the fortepiano; he makes as convincing a case for that instrument as any I've heard. Ariadne Daskalakis unfortunately plays a particularly wiry-sounding metal-strung violin. Their duets sound oddly anachronistic to me. The orchestra has blessedly few passages in which to overwhelm the soloists.
The trumpet for which Haydn composed his popular Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, in 1796, was not the piston-valved trumpet played by Jürgen Schuster on this CD. Neither was it the 'natural' trumpet of the earlier 18th C. As the CD notes make amply clear, it was essentially a Baroque trumpet with finger holes covered by simple keys, not valves at all, operated by the trumpeter's left hand to raise or lower a pitch in the regular overtone series by a semitone. This is close to the usual "Baroque trumpet" played today by German and Swedish trumpeters, though they use simple holes in the tubing without any kind of keys. It doesn't sound much like a modern trumpet, either in timbre or in articulations; trills in particular sound prominently different. Trumpeter Schuster actually plays his part in this concerto rather tastefully and musically. One can listen to it with enjoyment, but still it's not "the real thing." Dare I say that the valved trumpet was a calamity for the instrument, turning it from a thrilling virtuoso's horn with voice-like qualities into a blaring novelty in the string-dominated orchestra? If you want to challenge my opinion, first listen to some of the five volumes of "The Art of the Baroque Trumpet", also on Naxos, played by Niklas Eklund. Now that's an instrument of Music!
Haydn wrote his trumpet concerto in E flat major in1796 in Vienna. By this time, Haydn had returned from his second trip to London, and his entire symphonic output was behind him. He composed the work for the inventor of a newfangled trumpet with five keys, which was an early attempt to give the performer a means of controlling pitch other than with his breath. The invention proved unsuccessful, and the contemporary valve trumpet did not come into use until about 1813. But Haydn's concerto uses the possibility of the instrument in a manner that has survived all technological changes. Unlike most of Haydn's concertos it is a virtuosic work full of fanfare, color, and range. It uses rapid-fire notes and features passages in the upper register of the trumpet. Besides the two flashy outer movements, the concerto features a lovely, meditative slow movement. As Karl Geiringer wrote in his famous study,"Haydn: A Creative Life in Music" (p 324); " With youthful enthusiasm the aged composer threw himself into the novel task, creating the finest solo concerto of his whole career and proving once more his flexibility and ability to absorb new ideas." Trumpeter Jurgen Schuster offers a fine performance of this much-loved work.
The remaining three concertos on this CD all were composed early in Haydn's career. Each of them has lovely features, but the concertos tend to lack the virtuosic solo performances that became the hallmark of the genre. They are more in the nature of ensemble music.
The best of the three works is the concerto in D major for horn, composed in 1762. This work was composed for an early version of the horn in which the performer had only limited ability to control the pitch of the instrument. Much of Haydn's concerto emphasizes the upper register of the horn. This is a melodious, expressive piece with good balance between the orchestra and the soloist. Haydn uses calls and fanfare, and many trilled passages on the horn. In particular, the concerto features a moving adagio between the two lively outer movements. Geiringer aptly said of this work ( p.235) that "the expressive music displays all shades of emotion, from powerful energy to tender longing." Dmitri Babanov performs this work on a modern French horn.
The remaining two works are early indeed, probably dating from Haydn's days as a freelance composer in Vienna in the late 1750s. The Keyboard concerto in D major likely was originally written for organ but is performed on this CD by Harald Hoernen on the harpsichord. This is a baroque-styled work which reminded me of Haydn's earliest symphonies. I found the recording well-balanced between orchestra and soloist. The solo line consists largely of runs and strumming passages in the right hand while the left hand tends to duplicate the lower parts in the orchestra. The work includes a lengthy slow movement and a sprightly rhythmic finale.
The final work on this CD, the double concerto for violin and keyboard, also likely dates from the late 1750s. The keyboard part is of limited range, suggesting again that it was initially composed for the organ. The main attraction of this work is the use of the fortepiano played by Hoeren together with violinist Ariadne Daskalakis. The fortepiano his a light, hollow, staccato sound which fits this music well. For the most part, the violinist in this piece follows the lead of the keyboard player. In turn, the keyboard soloist sometimes carries the melody, but he also acts as a fill-in with the orchestra. I enjoyed in particular the slow movement of this piece which features the soloists generally alternating with each other over a walking, pulsating accompaniment from the orchestra.
Listeners interested in the early Haydn in addition to the grand trumpet concerto will enjoy this CD.