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Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Symphony No. 13 in D major (1768) [15:41]
Notturno No. 1 in F major (1772) [21:30]
Symphony No. 20 in C major (1777) [20:39]
Andante, Symphony No. 13 [3:09]
Menuetto, Symphony No. 13 [1:38]
Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss/Lovard Skou Larsen
rec. 2015, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal
CPO 555 042-2 [62:39]

Michael Haydn followed his elder brother Joseph as a chorister at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, where he received a thorough musical training. Having initially worked at Gro▀wardein as Kapellmeister, he then assumed a similar role at Salzburg from 1762. He remained in this latter position for the rest of his life, and for several years was a colleague of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with whom he enjoyed a friendly and positive relationship.

Haydn composed prolifically and was particularly successful in sacred choral music and orchestral music. He wrote some forty symphonies as well as various concertos. During the 19th Century his music lapsed into obscurity but, during the last fifty years or so, there has been a revival of interest, fuelled by the rediscovery of many compositions and the creation of a comprehensive catalogue. In fact, this CPO release represents an important milestone since it completes their 'Michael Haydn Edition' of the symphonies. This ambitious project actually began back in 1991 with the Slovak Chamber Orchestra and was taken over a few years later by the German Chamber Orchestra of Neuss, as featured here. This project, continued over many years, followed the pioneering efforts of Harold Farberman and the late-lamented Bournemouth Sinfonietta that recorded the symphonies for the Vox label. Some, but not all, of these performances have found their way on to CD (see for example Regis RRC 1188).

For the new CPO issue, the fresh and lively orchestral playing sounds just as it should in classical repertoire. There are alternative movements to the basic four of the Symphony No. 13. These are included as an appendix on the final two tracks of the disc. As such, it is clear there are several issues surrounding performance procedures, which are thoroughly discussed in the well-documented booklet notes by Michael Malkiewicz.

The Symphony No. 20, composed a few years later, has a somewhat different character. Unusually for Michael Haydn, the orchestra in this work omits trumpets and drums while also having a slow movement Andante cast in the minor key. In common with his friend Mozart, Haydn enriched the musical life of Salzburg by composing 'entertainment music' in the form of compositions that he entitled Notturno. An attractive example in the key of F major is included here. This music has a more easy-going nature, and seems something of a hybrid between the orchestral and chamber idioms. There are some imaginative touches too, such as the deployment of pizzicato strings during the Adagio slow movement, as well as some daring contrasts of colour and texture throughout. These features are well captured by the atmospheric recording, while the playing is sensitive and beautifully judged in matters of tempo and phrasing, as it is in the performances of the two symphonies.

Terry Barfoot

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