This album will serve as an “In Memoriam Richard Kapp” so far as I am concerned. I met conductor Richard Kapp (1936-2006) at my very first appearance, 9 February 1984 on WQXR-FM’s “First Hearing,” where we shared a microphone with the late Robert Jacobson of Opera News and our host, Lloyd Moss. Richard had been a conducting student of the great master at Baden-Baden, Hans Rosbaud; and Richard spoke of Rosbaud with me on several occasions, communicating that maestro’s catholic taste and the fact that Richard possessed boxes of unedited Rosbaud tapes, which, alas, I could never convince him to invite me to edit and catalogue.
Essay presents three Haydn symphonies recorded in concert performance: Le Midi, 16 February 2000; The Hen, 17 February 1996; and The Miracle, 26 October 1997. Composed in 1766 for Prince Paul of Esterhaza’s request for a trilogy of works celebrating “the times of day.” What is quite remarkable about the scoring is Haydn’s adumbration of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, since Haydn writes a virtuoso solo part for virtually every leader in his ensemble. The slow movement may have been inspired by Haydn’s reaction to some Handel opera, with its sighing recitatives, its imitation of the four humours in rather histrionic fashion. Several sections reflect the influence of the earlier concerto grosso, here fused to the open-air quality of the divertimento. Kapp’s personnel are not listed in the notes, but his concertmaster violin and principal cello engage in some spirited colloquy. The flute parts are selectively offered in the second and fourth movements, to excellent effect. A true amalgam of musical styles, the music shows off Kapp’s Virtuosi in the same manner it was meant to do for Haydn’s own Eisenstadt forces.
The so-called Hen Symphony contributes to the Paris Symphony group Haydn created 1785-1789. Only ostensibly in the tragic key of G Minor, the music quickly moves from a stormy opening to musical parody and on to the tonic major. The mostly placid Andante yields to a frothy, Bavarian laendler in G Major which Haydn calls a menuet. The finale in 12/8 has a hunting atmosphere, combined with the tenor of a gigue. Spirited playing from Kapp’s gifted woodwind players at every turn. Haydn’s predilection for concertante writing, for the combination of wit and grace, abounds here as well as in the Symphony No. 96. The latter, of course, was Haydn’s first symphony for the London audience of 1791. The Allegro of the first movement Kapp takes at Toscaninian whiplash speed, the playing light and airy, deftly secure. The second movement Andante exploits two violins in cadenza, along with woodwind trills in the midst of an inspired Austrian melody treated to modified variation technique. The Menuetto Kapp takes aggressively, perhaps to highlight its timpanic thunder against the bucolic middle section and its folksy oboe all the more. The pompously comic rondo which concludes this sparkling work takes its opening materials and renegotiates them with imaginative verve of the highest order. Kapp gives the figures punch and muscle as well as the airy agility we require from our brilliant wits in music. The editing and mastering of the disc by Daniel Czernecki, I must add, preserves sonic integrity without those “slick production qualities” at which Richard railed so fervently in our all too few encounters. Count me among the applauders at the disc’s end.
— Gary Lemco