Haydn and Hummel — Concertos for Violin and Piano — Centaur

by | May 15, 2020 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

HAYDN: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in F Major, Hob. XVIII:6; HUMMEL: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in Major, Op. 17 – Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin/ Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano/ Slovak National Symphony Orchestra/ Theodore Kuchar – Centaur CRC 3742, 56:22 (4/17/20) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

In 1761 Haydn took an appointment as Vice-Kapellmeister with Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, among the richest men of the Hungarian-Bohemian Empire. In 1766, now serving the Prince Nicolaus, brother to the late Prince Paul, Haydn succeeded Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, and Haydn retained this post, more or less nominally until his death in 1809.  The Concerto for Piano, Violin and Orchestra seems to have been an immediate product of Haydn’s new status and position, and the music bears a festive character, given its leaning to the keyboard, which the violin both supports and adds lovely, ornamental tissue.

Recorded 15-19 November 2017, the music enjoys the immediate warmth of the two soloists, who in the cadenza sections, play as a salon duet.  Despite the fact that Haydn conceived virtually all of his keyboard works for the harpsichord, the transposition to the modern piano does not intrude upon the transparency of the textures. The opening Allegro moderato proceeds in an Italianate manner, in the Viotti style. Florid and gracious, each partner either echoes or elaborates on the other solo line, then the two blend while the orchestra supplies a transition. The scalar second subject could hardly be more simple, spread over a pedal point. The cadenza plays out like a brief, salon interlude.

The second movement, Largo, opens with the piano’s serving as an obbligato orchestral instrument, in the manner of C.P.E. Bach. A stately processional, it allows the violin the melodic statement. The keyboard will add ornaments to the sweetly flowing, melodic line.
A turn to the minor mode adds a touch of Haydn pathos. The piano part combines a parlando style with arpeggios and ad libitum ornaments. The pizzicato accompaniment for both soli contributes to an intimate moment. The four-note motif late in the movement makes us think about what Beethoven would do with it. The last movement, Presto, brisk and robust, swaggers along with a deliberate halt or two and a drop in dynamic levels. The sense of rustic dance permeates the general good nature of the music. The cordial interplay of the two instruments with the orchestra, light-hearted and warmly lyrical, surely will win new and devoted auditors to this relatively novel work.

The Concerto for Piano, Violin and Orchestra, Op. 17 of Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1804) displays a congenial virtuosity of spirit from beginning to end. In traditional three-movement form, the work opens with an airy, martial Allegro con brio that permits a charming interplay between the two soli, often allowing a scalar flourish for the keyboard. The violin, too, indulges in florid passages, often taking up the piano tune to develop its lyrical possibilities.  Hummel did in fact leave his own cadenza for this movement, rather contrary to the “improvised” tradition of the period. Ivakhiv’s sweet tone proves particularly effective in her work prior to the extended pedal point that will lead to the cadenza. Pompa-Baldi leads off, his long trill’s inviting Ivakhin, and the two endear us to the lyrical melody and its roulades. Some humorous touches infiltrate the pages, perhaps in honor of Hummel’s idol, Beethoven.

The second movement, a menuet tune, takes the form of a Thema con Variazioni, among Hummel’s most favored procedures. Rather Mozartean in grace and contour, the air has the character of an operatic aria and its various permutations. There proceed six variants, with Ivakhiv’s entry supported by flourishes in the keyboard. The orchestral part confines itself mostly to a moving bass line. Some woodwind interest – oboe and flute – accepts the invitation to participate. Some horns color the long violin variation, followed by a piano variation of equal length that could easily pass for one of the many Mozart short concerted works for piano and orchestra. The French horn work deserves some note. The last movement, Rondo, exudes a playfulness that has marked the performance as a whole. Genial and inflected with tender affection, the music moves in easy colors – granted by the bassoon – until a rather disarming episode in the minor, a rare moment of Hummel gravity. We ought to recall that Hummel represents the “link,” as it were, between Beethoven and Chopin. Though the soloists do not indulge in a cadenza, their various starts-and-stops have proved energetic and compelling enough.

Excellent sonics, attributable to the well-seasoned Da-Hong Seetoo.

—Gary Lemco

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