Baryton Trios Nos 9, 55, 58, 61, 69 & 87
Valencia Baryton Project
Naxos 8.574188 66:22 mins
The baryton was the curious instrument which Haydn’s employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, played. The model the Prince owned had seven strings across its fretboard, and an additional lower layer of ten strings which enriched the sound through their sympathetic vibrations and enabled the player to pluck notes with the thumb of the left hand. Both these effects are heard to good advantage in these performances by Matthew Baker, one of the world’s very few baryton specialists. He’s ably accompanied by the viola player Estevan de Almeida Reis and the cellist Alex Friedhoff.
Haydn found himself having to churn out these pieces on a regular basis in the late 1760s and early 1770s – more than 125 of them in all. They’re agreeable enough, and the finale of the D major Trio No. 69 has faint hints of the gypsy style, as well as a cadenza featuring left-hand pizzicato; while the minuet of No. 58 has an attractive mournful trio in the minor. But it’s fairly anonymous stuff, with scarcely a hint of the composer who was so soon to produce his first string quartet masterpieces. As a glimpse into a virtually unknown corner of Haydn’s vast output, however, this disc fulfils a valuable function.