The Cologne Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1923, and since 1964 under the direction of Helmut Müller-Brühl, plays on modern instruments. The musicians play, however, in a manner informed by repertory-appropriate performance practice. In other words, one gets the ease and fullness of modern instruments and the lucidity and clarity of "authentic" performances in a single ensemble – a pretty good compromise and not, I think, a case of falling between two stools.
Beyond his Trumpet Concerto and his keyboard concerto with the "Rondo all'Ungherese" finale, Haydn's concertos are not nearly as well known as his symphonies. The famous Trumpet Concerto is recorded here in a lively but mellow-toned and not self-consciously virtuosic reading by Herr Schuster, and the other three concertos – hardly less attractive – may entice listeners into exploring this repertory a little more deeply.
The Harpsichord Concerto probably was composed with organ and strings in mind. Nevertheless, it sounds completely idiomatic on the harpsichord. It is only fitfully top-notch Haydn, except in the finale, but even Haydn's near-misses are amply interesting. Hoeren plays is straightforwardly, and not with a lot of fantasy, although he doesn't really do it an injustice. The Horn Concerto may have been written for Joseph Leutgeb, the hornist for whom Mozart composed his horn concertos. It is in a similarly galumphing style – cheerful and distinguished, like an aristocratic companion who knocks back a few beers when he gets the chance. Hornist Babanov sounds delighted with it, and his playing is friendly and mellifluous. This disc also includes Haydn's sole surviving Double Concerto – another concerto which might have been intended for the organ at first. The opening movement has a courtly air, which is maintained in the second movement. The short finale is more unbuttoned, but on the whole, this pleasing concerto is more well-mannered than innovative. Again, Hoeren seems a little literal here, although Daskalakis plays her violin part jauntily.
The program was recorded by German Radio in February 2007. The hall is reverberant enough to give the instruments a nice recorded presence. As usual, Keith Anderson's booklet note ably walks the listener through what he or she is hearing.
Copyright © 2009, Raymond Tuttle