Helmut Müller-Brühl

Haydn: Trumpet Concerto; Horn Concerto No. 1; Double Concerto; Harpsichord Concerto

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This disc by the veteran Cologne Chamber Orchestra and its conductor Helmut Müller-Brühl offers a mixed bag of concertos by Joseph Haydn, a genre that was never the composer's strong point. This ensemble was doing unknown Classical-period chamber works well before most of the others on the scene, and their playing is precise if a bit more toward the smooth side than is fashionable these days. But there's not much of a focus to the program. It concludes with the Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, Hob. 7e/1, one of the most familiar trumpet works in the catalog. This is played quite competently by Jürgen Schuster on a modern trumpet. The other three works date from much earlier in Haydn's career and have murky origins that even Haydn himself was unable to precisely recall. The intriguing Double Concerto in F major, Hob. 18/6, was probably written for violin and organ originally and may have served as a kind of church sonata. The choice of fortepiano as the keyboard instrument is anachronistic and musically curious, although a harpsichord, as used in the preceding Concerto in D major, Hob. 18/2, would have worked well; Haydn apparently substituted harpsichord for organ in that very early and rather unformed piece. The opening Horn Concerto. No. 1 in D major, Hob 7d/3, was composed in 1762 for a natural corno di caccia; it loses much of its piquancy in a vanilla performance on a modern trumpet like this one. Still, there is nothing in the least unpleasant about the hour of music offered here, which might serve a Haydn enthusiast reasonably well for a long commute home.

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