Haydn: Keyboard Concertos

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn: Keyboard Concertos
WORKS: Keyboard Concertos
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam, Concerto Copenhagen, Mortensen
CATALOGUE NO: CD1318
Only three months ago I reviewed a Harmonia Mundi recording of Haydn piano concertos played by Andreas Staier (see February). His otherwise fine performances were marred by elaborate and excessively long cadenzas that were at odds with the unpretentious nature of the concertos themselves. Ronald Brautigam doesn’t make the same mistake: his cadenzas are models of discretion, and it’s partly their modest scope that allows him to throw in a fourth concerto – albeit a very early piece that often degenerates into long sequences of patterned arpeggios. Brautigam has given us some outstanding recordings of Haydn’s solo keyboard sonatas, and his new disc is on the same high level, with playing that can accommodate both the refinement of Haydn’s writing and its exuberance. I particularly liked the Hungarian-style finale of the well-known D major Concerto, with its riotous chains of trills accompanied by rasping horns. If Concerto Copenhagen can’t quite match the polish of the splendid Freiburg Baroque Orchestra for Staier, it’s still an impressive group.

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If you prefer this music on period instruments (like Staier, Brautigam uses a copy of a piano by Mozart’s favourite maker, Anton Walter) this is now your best bet. However, it’s worth remembering that there are fine modern alternatives by Leif Ove Andsnes (EMI) and Emanuel Ax, both of them as stylish as you could wish. In Ax’s hands, in particular, the pieces come up as bright as new, and the Franz Liszt Orchestra lends that Hungarian finale all the verve and vitality it needs. Misha Donat