Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Adagio in F major, from Violin Concerto in C major, Hob. VIIa (arr. Gomziakov) [3:56]
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major, Hob. VIIb:2 (1783) [26:40]
Symphony No. 13, Hob. I:13: Adagio cantabile (1763) [5:03]
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb:1 (1760s) [23:51]
Pavel Gomziakov (cello)
Gulbenkian Orchestra
rec. September 2015, Grande Auditório, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
ONYX CLASSICS 4151 [59:55]

I am accumulating quite a decent collection of the Haydn cello concertos. Earlier this year, I reviewed those by Daniel Müller-Schott with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (review) and put them at the top of the pile, so good were they. I also have recordings by Antonio Meneses (Avie – review), Wendy Warner (Cedille – review) and the overly Romanticised, but glorious, EMI recordings with Jacqueline du Pré. Each has its virtues.

The star of this recording is not the Russian-born, Lisbon resident soloist, but the cello, which is the ‘Chevillard, King of Portugal’ 1725 Stradivarius, loaned by the National Museum of Music in Lisbon. I remarked in my earlier review that Daniel Müller-Schott’s 1740 Montagna sounded magnificent. This one is even better; the best I’ve heard. That it sounds so good is also testimony to the abilities of Gomziakov.

The Gulbenkian Orchestra is not a period-instrument band, but has chosen to include a harpsichord in these performances. The other recordings I have mentioned do not, but the highly regarded and very period instrument recording by Christophe Coin with Christopher Hogwood with the AAM does (review). In this latter recording, the harpsichord is in the background, but the Onyx engineers have brought theirs to the fore, so that it is very prominent in places. This would not necessarily be a problem, were it not for the “big” style employed by Gomziakov, which to me, clashes with the accompaniment to some extent. This is my main reservation: soloist and orchestra each play their parts very well, but seem to have slightly different perceptions of how the works should sound.

The fillers are pleasant and well-played but do little more than provide a space between the concertos. Given the space left on the disc, surely the entire symphony could have been included, even if the other movements don’t feature a solo cello part.

There is no reason given for placing the earlier and lighter C major concerto last. Obviously, one can rearrange track order to suit personal preferences but it seems that finishing with the more virtuosic and intense D major concerto makes more sense.

The sound quality is very well defined, allowing both the magnificent Stradivarius and the orchestra to shine. Unfortunately Gomziakov has been miked very closely, so that we are treated liberally to his sniffs, snorts and other breathing noises, especially in the D major. A similar comment was made by the site's reviewer about another of his recordings, also on Onyx (review).

The booklet notes, written by Philip Borg-Wheeler, a contributor to these pages, are not extensive, but do provide the salient information and a comprehensible analysis of the music. The recording is dedicated to Gomziakov’s teacher, Dmitry Miller, who passed away earlier this year.

Despite my reservations, this is a keeper, and I would certainly like to hear Gomziakov and this cello in some Romantic era concertos.

David Barker

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