Artists do many things
to pass the time between large works or to pay the bills. Dostoevsky
wrote a regular newspaper column. Shostakovich transcribed
other composers’ works or made arrangements of his own works
for other instruments. Mozart wrote his flute quartets, in
spite of his dislike of the instrument. In Haydn’s case here,
there is no indication that he needed the money, but nevertheless,
he composed and submitted these charming light works in 1784.
This disc collects the six divertimenti (Hob. IV:6-11), published
in London. In my
surfing around cyberspace, I’ve found quite a few recordings
of the Hob. II and Hob. III divertimenti, but none of the Hob.
IV, and I have no performances of the works in my home collection.
For those of you who possess recordings of the other divertimenti
Haydn has written, a passage or two here may sound familiar
— the second divertimento in G on this disc is based on Baryton
trio Hob. XI:97. Other movements of the trios presented here
are cribbed from other works, such as his opera Il mondo
della Luna, which has a couple of sinfonias that make an
altered appearance here.
The first divertimento
on offer here is a sunny piece — the flute here often duetting
with the violin in a flutter of butterfly wings as the cello
propels the piece with repeated chords. The clouds don’t gather
until the slow movement of the second divertimento, but by the
end of that statement, the sun peeks through before the repeat;
a quiet and contemplative movement that leads directly into
the vivacious Allegro. A terse second statement cuts
in centering on the violin, and Ernö Sebestyén’s bowing here
is effortless. The third divertimento keeps interest with unusual
notes coming from the cello at turning points in the slow movement,
and the chord changes of the beautiful Adagio opening
movement of Divertimento 4, the briefest of the set, gives glimpses
of Beethoven, one of the standout moments on this disc; its
closing Presto is a joy to listen to.
The recording ambience
is cosy and close, with the flute perfectly balanced with the
other instrument, which can pose challenges in works scored
for these instruments. Occasionally the cello seems a bit too
far in the background, but this occurs only occasionally and
may have been due to movement of the instrument during playing.
This ensemble has recorded another disc for MDG of the Beethoven
Serenades with the addition of Wilifried Strehle on viola, and
Paul Meisen has recorded several other discs for the same label,
including works of Prokofiev, Reger, Reinecke, Bach, and Denisov.
These pieces on this
disc, by their appellation, do not pretend to make any lofty
statements or to overtly challenge the listener, but are instead
intended to entertain, which they truly do. A very enjoyable
disc, a bit on the short side regarding playing time, but a
great collection of Haydn at his most concise. Recommended.