This is a disc that serves as an eloquent reminder that there are few more rewarding experiences than an hour or so spent in Haydn’s company.

Behind the prosaic title lie vital, perceptive period instrument performances of three of Haydn’s most popular orchestral works. Both the C-major Cello Concerto and the Symphony No. 6, part of a trilogy devoted to the times of the day, date from the mid-1760s, a period when the young Haydn was settling into his new post at Esterházy.

With its many concertante elements, ‘Le matin’ gives a strong sense of the composer delighting in assessing the strength of his newly acquired orchestra. The fine evocation of dawn is here given a real sense of expectancy, though the keyboard continuo flourishes seem to me out of place. When day breaks the main allegro is given a bright-eyed, sharply observed focus, the concertante wind playing full of character and technically outstanding. The improvisatory second movement features a splendidly played violin solo from Skye McIntosh, but the rhythm of the central andante section sounds a little mannered and I’m unconvinced by Erin Helyard’s note arguing justification for the use of organ continuo in this movement. The peaceful suspensions of the final pages sound truly lovely. The Minuet is finely rhythmically sprung, the central trio section again given real character by the bassoonist, while the concertante element is again to the fore in the zestful Finale.

The Cello Concerto opens at an agreeably comfortable tempo allowing full reign to its lyricism, while at the same time not neglecting rhythmic impetus. Daniel Yeadon’s solo playing is technically accomplished and tonally secure across the register, with some particularly sensitive playing in the development. The central Adagio is felicitously phrased, with some subtle use of portamento and rubato along the way, while the final movement carries real nervous intensity in its strong forward momentum. Is the cello a little too forwardly recorded? Maybe, but it’s only in the busy activity of the finale that such thoughts really comes to mind.

 

Erin Helyard’s performance of the well-known D-major Keyboard Concerto (1784) is given on a copy of a Goujon of 1749 by Andrew Garlick. It’s a mellifluous instrument with an especially attractive silvery upper register, played here by Helyard with firm-fingered accomplishment. If I’m marginally less taken with the performance than the other two, it is because some of the tempo fluctuations made in cause of dramatic effect in the opening Vivace seem to me to come dangerously close to mannerism. But the cantabile of the operatic central Adagio is compellingly laid out, while the famous Hungarian rondo finale is given with all the unbridled élan that anyone could want.

This is a disc that serves as an eloquent reminder that there are few more rewarding experiences than an hour or so spent in Haydn’s company.

Brian Robins - Early Music Review