“The Haydn Album” on the ABC Classics label presents and an all Haydn program by the Australian Haydn Ensemble. The ensemble was founded 5 years ago and has formed the backbone of many Baroque and early Classical performances on period instruments. This is their debut album.
Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C (Hob VIIb:1)
Although marked “Moderato” the opening movement is lively and spritely. The Cello playing from Daniel Yeadon is expressive with intelligent articulation. One is carried along with the momentum of it and the flourishes of the phrasing. An appropriate balance is struck between the orchestra and soloist. The slow middle movement is again expressive, and liberties taken with the tempi are effective musically. The cello is always warm in tone. Delicate solo playing is contrasted to the strong orchestral passages.
Yeadon’s cello playing is fascinating because he seems to bring his experience of playing the viola da gamba to bear. It is as if he sits right in the transition from old to new; a foot in both camps. His performance is right on the cusp for gamba vs cello, the very point at which Haydn’s music sits.
For my personal preference, on the recording technical side, this concerto tends to err on the warm rather than bright sound, perhaps to favour the solo cello over the brighter violin and harpsichord spectrum. While this sometimes brings heaviness, in no way does it take away from the masterful musicianship on display.
Symphony No 6 in D (Hob I:6) “Le Matin”
Haydn can be performed as just pleasant wallpaper music, but this is certainly not the case in this Symphony (or anywhere on the CD). Every musical element is carefully considered and the performance is filled with surprises and intellectual interest. The overall musical effect is entrancing. The many solo passages of various woodwinds in the first movement are richly articulated and contrasted strongly with the orchestral tutti. Although the instrumental resources are much the same as the Concerto above; we have a much fuller orchestral texture.
The slow movement, almost like a violin concerto is delicately played by Skye McIntosh, the concert master and musical director. The sound here is gentle and exquisite, but allowing the violin tone to shine. The Minuet again alternates lighter solos with a heavier orchestral texture. The Trio features the bassoon, richly musical, played by Simon Rickard.
The last movement is lively, full of musical interest and drama due to thoughtful and well rehearsed performance.
Harpsichord Concerto in D (Hob XVII:11)
Boisterous orchestral textures are contrasted to a delicate and clear harpsichord tone. Tight and well articulated playing from Erin Helyard feed the lively rhythms of this piece. This is one of those pieces that sits on the cusp mentioned earlier. The days of the harpsichord were numbered at that time, as dynamics (in contrast to the emerging forte-piano) can only be varied by registration changes or thickening of the texture; Helyard skilfully uses rhythm, articulation and phrasing to great effect, breathing life into the music.
The Haydn Album
The Australian Haydn Ensemble stands proudly shoulder to shoulder with the many period instrument ensembles found in Europe. We are lucky to have such a professional and vibrant ensemble in our midst.
Buy this CD, you will not be disappointed. Look for its clean and pale blue and white cover showing a twin masted tall ship birthed outside the Maritime Museum at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
The album is available online at the ABC Shop for $24.99.