THOMAS HAIGH: Six Concertos for Harpsichord – Barbara Harbach, harpsichord – MSR Classics MS 1441, 68:04 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Here’s the deal, in a nutshell—if your classical period collection is weak, meaning that it’s loaded down with Haydn and Mozart with few, if any, recordings of the music of Gluck, Clementi, CPE Bach, Cherubini, Hummel, you get the idea—then you really needn’t bother with the music of one Thomas Haigh (1769-1808)—a pianist, violinist, and composer who studied with Haydn during his first London sojourn, until you rectify the holes in your catalog. His main efforts were directed at music with keyboard of some sort, and these 1783 “concertos” were published with the idea that two violins and cello could provide accompaniment if desired, though to be honest I really can’t imagine, aside from sonority, what the additional instruments would add. This is basically non-developmental music with a lot of repetition and a heavy reliance upon melodic ideas, of which Haigh seems proficient. The keyboard is demanding with a lot of technical wizardry required, and four of the six are in three movements, the other two with two only. Haigh is a fine composer—and these are premiere recordings as well—but is not in the top rank by any means. Nonetheless, classical period aficionados will find much interest here.
Barbara Harbach sits atop these opuses with much authority and evident pleasure that comes across in these recordings. The sound of her Willard Martin 1989 harpsichord is rather bright and forceful, yet of a crystalline clarity. She projects Haigh’s intention with panache and an effortless sense of style. There won’t be a lot of these to come your way, so if the interest is there by all means go for it.
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