Friday, 22 April 2016

A dazzling recording of Haydn violin concertos from Isabelle Faust and the Münchener Kammerorchester under Christoph Poppen on Pan Classics

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was incredibly prolific as a composer writing in just about every genre. I suppose it is inevitable that many of his works suffer a degree of neglect, particularly in the concert hall. Haydn’s violin concertos have certainly fared better on disc than in concert with a number of fine recordings available.

Isabelle Faust  is a name that deservedly attracts attention when any new release by her appears. Certainly I was anxious to hear her new recording of the Haydn concertos for Pan Classics where she is joined by the Münchener Kammerorchester conducted by Christoph Poppen

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Haydn almost certainly wrote his C major and A major violin concertos for the Konzertmeister of the Esterházy Orchestra, Luigi Tomasini. Indeed, there is an inscription in the manuscript score of the C major concerto dedicating the work to ‘Luigi.’ Of the four violin concertos written by Haydn three remain, the other lost.

There is a wonderfully sunny opening from Christoph Poppen and the Münchener Kammerorchester in the Allegro moderato of the Violin Concerto in C major, Hob. VIIa:1. When Isabelle Faust enters she brings a crisp, clear tone with a real freedom to her playing through all of Haydn’s twists and turns. There is a subtle spring in the step of the orchestra who provide a fine transparency. Faust brings all her precision and agility to the sparkling cadenza.  

There are some lovely textures from the soloist and orchestra as the Adagio opens before Faust weaves a lovely line around a steady rhythm in the orchestra. Discreet and limited vibrato brings clarity to Faust’s lovely tone with this soloist finding a lovely dialogue with the orchestra.  

The orchestra brings a lively, vibrant Finale – Presto with some superb playing from Faust, full of light textured details with a fine rhythmic pulse from soloist and orchestra.

The Moderato of the Violin Concerto in A major, Hob. VIIa:3 brings some fine timbres and textures from the orchestra as they bring a sense of urgency to the rhythmic flow. Isabelle Faust provides some lovely textures when she joins in the captivating theme, weaving through some lovely passages, always with a light, buoyant touch, full of fluency and agility through passages of beautifully controlled dynamics. There are some lovely double stopped textures before a very fine cadenza full of lively textures.

The orchestra provide some fine rhythms over which the upper strings glide in the opening of the Adagio. When Faust enters she brings a perfectly judged flowing melody as the orchestra retains a contrasting rhythmic idea. Again there are moments of fine dialogue between soloist and orchestra with this violinist bringing a lovely blend of tone and sonority. There is a beautifully drawn cadenza, exquisitely played.

The Finale – Allegro has a terrific, buoyant opening from the Münchener players who play with terrific ensemble and agility. Faust brings an equally light and buoyant contribution as she dances ahead full finely drawn details.  Both soloist and orchestra bring a kind of nervous energy to this music, an almost Mozartian joy before a finely shaped cadenza full of fine textures.

Certain Haydn scholars believe the Violin Concerto in G major, Hob. VIIa:4 to be from an earlier period and, therefore, not written for the Esterhazy Orchestra Konzertmeister.

Here Isabelle Faust brings superb dynamic control to the fleet, light textured Allegro moderato finding a terrific rapport with this conductor and orchestra. They keep a fine flow, both soloist and orchestra providing fine phrasing and with a cadenza that brings some stunning playing from Faust.

There is a finely shaped orchestral opening to the Adagio with some lovely little nuances. Isabelle Faust brings a beautifully judged solo line, a gently controlled flow, with fine rubato.  

The Münchener Kammerorchester shoot ahead in the Finale – Allegro, full of life before Faust joins to add some absolutely wonderful playing, fast, fluent and full of energy and sparkle right up to the sudden end. 

This is a dazzling disc from Isabelle Faust and the Münchener Kammerorchester under Christoph Poppen. The recording is spacious and detailed and there are useful booklet notes.

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