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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto for 2 Lire Organizzate (Flute and Oboe) and Orchestra, No.1 in C Major, Hob. VIIh: 1 (1786) [14.35]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra in G Major [17.53]
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in D Major [16.59]
Joseph HAYDN
Concerto for 2 Lire Organizzate (Flute and Oboe) and Orchestra, No.3 in G Major, Hob. VIIh: 3 (1786) [15.11]
Ana de la Vega (flute), Ramón Ortega Quero (oboe), Trondheim Soloists
rec. 2019, Selbu Kirke, Trondheim, Norway
PENTATONE PTC5186823 [64.38]

This is an interesting release, despite a few reservations. The two players, the Australian Ana de la Vega and the Spanish Ramón Ortega Quero, are very accomplished players, and, more than that, work wonderfully well together. The question is whether the CD is principally about repertoire or primarily about the blend of oboe and flute. The subtly different timbres of the instrumentsare more significant than the differences in range.

Significant also is the choice of the two concertos by Stamitz. The double concerto is a lovely work, with some quirky orchestration and overall a sense of invention. It is well worth exploring. It has not been much recorded, but there is a valuable alternative, played by Aurčle Nicolet and the incomparable Heinz Holliger, with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, coupled with works by Cimarosa and Salieri (Philips 4163592, 2006). The new recording has the benefit of superior sound, but – and this is my reservation – the Trondheim Soloists accompany dutifully but lack the sparkle of the Academy, or the liveliness shown in all the Trondheim recordings I have heard. It is as if the focus in the recording has been too much on the soloists, with incomplete attention to orchestral detail. The Trondheim Soloists have previously shown themselves superb performers. Perhaps this was a bad day at the office, but something is missing. The booklet photograph does not make it clear whether they are directed by the leader: it shows the soloists on a dais in front of the orchestra, but the players (undivided strings) appear just to be following along.

The Stamitz Concerto for Flute is a lovely and neglected piece. In this recording, more might have been of the orchestral contribution, but the performance has some of the necessary energy, and the gentle slow movement is lovely – a real highlight of the disc.

It has become common to play the Concertos for 2 Lire Organizzate (from around 1786) of Haydn on flute and oboe, as here. The notes describe the Lira Organizzate, a kind of combination of hurdy-gurdy with added strings (played not with a bow but with wooden wheels) as ‘basically extinct’. Haydn wrote 6 concertos for the instrument (of which 5 are extant) as well as 9 notturnos (8 survive) all commissioned by King Ferdinand of Naples, who liked to duet with his music teacher. There is an interesting YouTube performance of the C major concerto on the original instruments, and great stuff it is (complete with a barking dog – presumably not one of Haydn’s jokes …. ) in the first movement. I suspect the lire lacked the carrying power for a larger modern venue, but, to be blunt, the sound is more characterful than oboe and flute, however beautifully played. On its own terms, however, the concertos on the disc are characteristic middle-period Haydn, and attractive listening.

There is much that will give pleasure here. The Pentatone recording is good, the booklet informative – and the two soloists are players to follow.

Michael Wilkinson



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