Various Artists

Haydn: Concertos for Keyboard, Organ, Cello, Violin, Trumpet, Horn [Box Set]

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Warner Classics & Jazz's Haydn Edition continues with this installment of the complete (extant) concertos of Haydn. While certainly remembered more for his pioneering work in the genres of the symphony and the string quartet, Haydn's contributions to the concerto literature are every bit as rewarding if not as revolutionary. The five-disc set is made up of previously released material going back as far as 1960 and as recent as 1997. With such a broad sample, there are sure to be differences in performance and recording quality. By far, the most satisfying performances are of the keyboard concertos: piano concertos performed by Philippe Entremont and harpsichord/organ concertos performed by Ton Koopman. Sound quality here is refreshingly crisp and crystalline; the accompanying orchestras are quite sensitive to the limited projection powers of the harpsichord and provide a hushed backdrop without being timid. Tempos are spirited and energetic. In the middle are the concertos for horn and the very popular trumpet concerto. Here, too, the accompanying orchestras are successful in allowing the solo instrument to come to the fore. The least appealing disc in the set unfortunately contains some of the best-known and most frequently performed of Haydn's concertos: the string concertos. Cellist Frederic Lodeon's interpretations of the vibrant C major and sweeping D major concertos are both rather bland and unexciting, with tempos tending toward stodgy. Violinist Thomas Zehemair's execution of the C major Violin Concerto is rather shrill and filled with far too many intonation problems to be truly great. Still, as an overall introduction to Haydn's concertos, this set is still not a bad choice for novice listeners, but should likely be supplemented with superior recordings of the string concertos.

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