Haydn Organ Concertos; Harpsichord Concerto

Author: 
Richard Wigmore

Haydn Organ Concertos; Harpsichord Concerto

  • Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra

Haydn’s organ concertos were all composed in his early twenties, when he was eking out a precarious freelance existence in Vienna. Not surprisingly, they give barely a hint of future greatness: in fact the D major work recorded here, which is otherwise unrepresented in the CD catalogue, has sometimes been misattributed to Galuppi. The rambling first movement, with its meandering chains of sequences, and the vacuously ornate Adagio (done here, contrary to Haydn’s indications, with solo strings) far outstay their welcome; best, as so often in early Haydn, is the finale, with its folkish main theme, its witty imitative touches and its irrepressible energy. The better known C major Concerto, recorded here without the (probably inauthentic) parts for trumpets and timpani, is hardly less discursive but more memorable in its ideas: the central Largo has a grave charm, the last movement that breezy 3/8 swing found in many of the finales of Haydn’s early symphonies. Abetted by crisp, prompt accompaniments from his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Ton Koopman plays both concertos nimbly and gracefully on an appealing, silvery-toned chamber organ, very much the sort of instrument for which the works were intended.
Around a quarter of a century separates the organ concertos from the familiar D major Concerto written in the early 1780s which Haydn, with a shrewd eye on maximum sales, designated ‘for the harpsichord or fortepiano’. The rhapsodic slow movement, in particular, benefits from the delicate dynamic shadings possible only on the fortepiano. But the music generally works well on the harpsichord, as players from Landowska onwards have demonstrated. The odd rhythmic quirk apart, Koopman is deft and spirited in the outer movements, the Rondo all’ungarese finale fiery without being rushed off its feet. In the Adagio Koopman’s sensitive shaping is slightly vitiated by a rather plodding orchestral contribution. Koopman adds apt touches of ornamentation and plays his own cadenzas – brief and to the point – in the first two movements. The bright-toned harpsichord is rather too forwardly balanced for my taste, though the spacious church acoustic is very attractive. No revelations here; but this disc can certainly be recommended to any Haydn lover who fancies an hour of stress-free late-night listening.'

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