Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 09/23/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Three of the four Haydn compositions on this CD are well-enough played to be enjoyable, and the price is certainly right! On the other hand...
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!"