Cologne Chamber Orchestra

Haydn: Concertos for Two Lire Oganizzate

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The lira organizzata (organ-ized lyre) was essentially a souped-up hurdy-gurdy, fitted out with a set of small organ pipes. The instrument was ordered up by the Neapolitan King Ferdinand IV to set himself apart from the more humble versions that were, and still are, popular on the streets of that wide-open city. First Pleyel, who visited Naples, and then his teacher Haydn, were commissioned to write music for the instrument; Haydn complied around 1786. It is curious that, with all the long mania for authentic performance, so few players have specialized in playing Haydn's compositions for unusual instruments on the devices for which they were written. There exists a vigorous subculture of amateur builders specializing in small organ-related instruments of all kinds, and various modern examples of lira organizzata are available. The various pairings of recorder, oboe, and flute used in the pieces on this recording, each of which was written for two lire organizzate, must be poor substitutes for the real thing; the use of the recorder, an obsolete instrument by 1785, seems to have been an attempt to replicate an organ-like sound. What's left are pieces that are rather anachronistic for this point in Haydn's career. Designated as concertos, they resemble the divertimenti, the workaday music from early in Haydn's service to the Esterházy family. Only the Concerto in G major, Hob. 7b/3, really has the full Classical concerto double exposition in its opening movement; most of the music loosely shifts between the solo instruments and the small orchestra of strings and horns. But, given how strange the lira organizzata must have sounded, perhaps that was exactly the point. Without it, this is a pleasant collection of rather unremarkable chamber music, distinguished by clear studio sound.

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