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CD Review

Franz Joseph Haydn

Concertinos & Trios

  • Piano Concertino in C Major, Hob. XIV:12
  • Piano Concertino in F Major, Hob. XVIII:F2
  • Piano Concertino in G Major, Hob. XIV:13
  • Piano Concertino in C Major, Hob. XIV:11
  • String Trio in D Major, Hob. XI:11
  • String Trio in C Major, Hob. V:16
Sabine Vatin, fortepiano
Ensemble d'arco
Naxos 8.557660 DDD 73:30
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Here's a CD of what one might call "household Haydn." In the four concertinos, the pianist is accompanied by two violins and a cello, and the writing is hardly of an insurmountable difficulty even for casual amateurs. These three-movement concertinos appear to have been written in the 1760s, while Haydn was a young man and newly employed by the Esterházy family… or even earlier. The small scale and the simplicity of these works – all of them quite sunny in character – definitely suggest a family gathering. No masterpieces here, then, but the writing is endlessly inventive and ingratiating, and there's something here for listeners and performers alike.

The three string players ditch the fortepianist for the other two works. The D-Major Trio originally was scored for baryton, that obsolete instrument for which Haydn wrote so extensively. (There's also a version for flute, violin, and cello.) The C-Major Trio, like the four concertinos, dates from the 1760s. Again, these works are in three movements and are most genial. The D-Major Trio feels a little more substantial than the other five works on this disc, even though it has a playing time of under nine minutes!

I was a little surprised that an Erard fortepiano dating from 1893 (!) was used on this CD – that's well past the heyday of fortepianos. Bright and pleasantly wiry, with little weight, it sounds like a much older instrument, and is ultimately appropriate for this repertoire – no matter when it was constructed. The multi-talented Sabine Vatin (she also is a choral conductor) flits through the keyboard writing easily, but avoids sounding glib. The members of "Ensemble d'arco" (is this truly their name, or are they just an ad hoc ensemble?) are associated with the Luxemburg Philharmonic Orchestra. They play with a facility similar to Vatin's, and do not withhold the care and affection due to the music. Darko Milowich and Xavier Van der Linden are the violinists, and Aleksandr Khramouchin is the cellist.

The recording was made in "studio of the Luxemburg Philharmonic Orchestra." (They have their own studio?) The engineering is detailed and close-up, but not overbearing.

Like those pretzels in the shape of goldfish, pleasure doesn't always come in large packages. This CD offers additional proof of that.

Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle