HAYDN Violin Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4
Haydn’s three authentic violin concertos fit ideally on a single disc and are an integral part of every aspiring fiddler’s arsenal. It’s easy to see why: even if they don’t display the virtuosity or depth of feeling of Mozart’s five, they nevertheless have challenges of their own, framed in music of effortless charm and Haydn’s own brand of earthy melodiousness.
Lisa Jacobs fields a band of no more than 14 string players, with a very present harpsichord accompaniment. Ensemble and phrasing are ideal, and Jacobs’s own cadenzas are in keeping with their surroundings. Her tone is clear and consistent. What is missing, perhaps, is that strand of individuality that marked out her Locatelli disc last year. It’s almost as if she’s playing safe, notwithstanding having explored these works in depth while touring them over the past season.
The bicentenary year in 2009, commemorating Haydn’s death, was a turning point in the performance of his music. Since then we’ve had the completion of the first period-instrument cycle of his symphonies plus the continuation of Thomas Fey’s ever-individual recordings and the start of a new survey by Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini. Period and period-influenced traversals of these concertos also have a long history – Simon Standage’s readings with the English Concert are now 30 years old, and subsequently we’ve had Elizabeth Wallfisch, Giuliano Carmignola, Midori Seiler and more. All demonstrate a new, contemporary approach to Haydn-playing, which, I’m afraid, Lisa Jacobs and The String Soloists don’t quite. If you already have a favourite, stick to that.