Michael Haydn: String Quintet in B flat, P105; String Quintet in C, P108; String Quintet in G, P109

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COMPOSERS: Michael Haydn
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: String Quintet in B flat, P105; String Quintet in C, P108; String Quintet in G, P109
PERFORMER: L’Archibudelli
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53987 DDD
Johann Michael Haydn was born five years after his illustrious elder brother, on 14 September 1737, in Rohrau, Lower Austria. As HC Robbins Landon suggests in an enthusiastic and informative essay supplied with this release, many music-lovers are surprised to learn that Joseph Haydn had a brother at all, let alone one who was a prolific and significant composer in his own right. None the less, upon visiting the younger Haydn’s grave, Schubert is said to have exclaimed: ‘The good Haydn! May your clear, calm spirit hover over me… I may be neither so calm nor so clear, but no man living reveres you more than I.’

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Michael Haydn’s string chamber music includes quartets, trios, serenades and divertimenti, few of which have attained regular repertoire status. Three of his string quintets (which employ the additional viola favoured by Mozart, Beethoven and others) have now been recorded for the first time here by L’Archibudelli. The C major and G major works (numbered 108 and 109 in Lothar Herbert Perger’s catalogue, and also known as ‘Notturno’) were composed in Salzburg in 1773. Both are in four movements, with the customary minuet placed third. The seven-movement Quintet in B flat contains two minuets and a final march, in the manner of the Salzburg serenade or divertimento. Mozart’s Quintet K174 (dated, like Haydn’s G major, ‘Salzburg, December 1773’) attests to his admiration for his more senior compatriot, but there is little about the works recorded here which is startlingly innovative or progressive. That said, the quintets are ably and resourcefully constructed, and make for an enjoyable listening experience. L’Archibudelli’s predictably stylish and adept performances are memorable enough in themselves, in a recording of unsurpassable clarity and detail. Michael Jameson