Haydn: Divertimento in G, Hob. II:2; Divertimento in C, Hob. II:17; Variations in E flat, Hob. II:24

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Divertimento in G, Hob. II:2; Divertimento in C, Hob. II:17; Variations in E flat, Hob. II:24
PERFORMER: Haydn Sinfonietta Vienna/Manfred Huss
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1481-2 DDD
Haydn’s divertimenti were not much appreciated by the sleepless citizens of Vienna. These zestful pieces were often performed outdoors – and late into the night – by small, mobile, noisy ensembles of woodwinds, strings and horns. Yet it was in these early compositions, dating from c1750-65, that Haydn began to sow the seeds of a revolution that culminated in the Golden Age of Viennese Classicism.

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Manfred Huss and his period-instrument Haydn Sinfonietta Vienna are currently engaged in a comprehensive survey of Haydn’s lesser-known works that has so far yielded sets of lire organizzate, concertos, scherzandi, three volumes of divertimenti, and, newly released, opera overtures.

The scherzandi, a unique cycle of six mini-symphonies that Haydn composed in 1761, are brilliant cameos. The divertimenti, equally fascinating, offer a broader view of his talents: Hob. II:21’s lovely, violin-led adagio (Vol. 1), Hob. II:D22’s bravura horn parts (Vol. 2), and all three pieces on this splendidly played new CD.

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Hob. II:2, for strings alone, reveals Haydn’s melodic felicity; Hob. II:24’s variations promote a colourful array of solos (flute, cello, violin, double bass, horns, cor anglais); Hob. II:17, symphonic in scope, typifies the composer’s wit, formal ingenuity and inspired use of folk rhythms. Though Haydn’s masterworks came later, this is already music of exceptional charm. Graham Lock