Jasper de Waal, horn = Joseph Haydn: Concerto for Horn No. 1 in D major Hob. VIId: 3; M. Haydn / W.A. Mozart: Romance for Horn and String Quartet; J. or M. Haydn?: Concerto for Horn No. 2 in D major Hob. VIId: 4; J. Haydn: Divertimento a Tre Hob. IV: 5; Adagio and Allegro Molto for Horn and Trombone from Serenade in D major – Jasper de Waal, horn / Henk Rubingh and Marijn Mijnders, violin /Roland Krämer, viola /Benedikt Enzler, cello / Jörgen van Rijen, trombone /Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCSA30210, 55:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

This welcome release is another in Channel Classics’ First Chairs series, this one highlighting Jasper de Waal, first horn in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 2004 in a programme of music by Joseph and Michael Haydn.

Joseph Haydn’s first Horn Concerto was written in 1762, a year after assuming the post of Assistant Kapellmeister to the Esterhazys, when the fine horn players, Thaddäus Steinmüller and Johannes Knoblauch, joined the orchestra. They would have played a rather different instrument from the one Jasper de Waal uses, as the first valves appeared only in 1814, and hand stopping had been discovered only just before Haydn wrote his first concerto. Steinmüller’s forte seems to have been playing in the lower register, something Haydn exploited especially in the slow movement. De Waal’s performance is first-class, expressive in that slow movement, producing lovely creamy tone, and lively in the outer ones. He uses vibrato sparingly, to create a pleasant effect, and is superbly accompanied by the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, all members of the RCO.

The second concerto may be the work of Michael Haydn – the excellent booklet essay goes into the history of the work as far as it is known – or one of Joseph’s early works. De Waal gets those jumps spot on! Michael Haydn’s Romance for horn and string quartet is delightful, based on Mozart’s slow movement for K.447 and shows De Waal a master of smooth legato playing.

Of the two Joseph Haydn works which complete the programme, there’s an entertaining Trio for horn, violin and ‘cello, and finally the sonically stunning Adagio and Allegro Molto for horn and trombone. Here, Jasper de Waal is joined by Jörgen van Rijen, principal trombone of the RCO, who was himself an earlier subject in the First Chair series. Years of experience playing together are evident in the results, perfect blending making the hairs on the neck stand up.  What a terrific way to end this well thought-out recital programme.

The sound quality on this release is up to the usual Channel Classics standard; that is to say, it is exemplary! Recorded in the comfortable acoustics of the Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam, the sound, especially in multichannel mode, is wonderfully natural in well-focused ambiance, De Waal perfectly distanced from the microphones. This is surely another triumph for Jared Sacks and his team, and a contender for one of my discs of the year.

— Peter Joelson