Haydn: Cello Concerto in C, Hob. VIIb:1; Cello Concerto in D, Hob. VIIb:2; Cello Concerto in D, Hob. VIIb:4 (attrib.)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Cello Concerto in C, Hob. VIIb:1; Cello Concerto in D, Hob. VIIb:2; Cello Concerto in D, Hob. VIIb:4 (attrib.)
PERFORMER: Gautier Capuçon (cello); Mahler CO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: 5 45560 2
Haydn’s two authenticated cello concertos have had a somewhat chequered history. The earlier of them was thought to have been lost, and only resurfaced in the early Sixties when a set of parts turned up in Prague; while the D major Concerto was long attributed to the famous cellist Anton Kraft. Kraft had studied composition with Haydn, and may well have assisted with the solo part, but the piece is undoubtedly authentic. Not that it matters either way: it’s overlong and generally undistinguished, and its cello pyrotechnics need a flamboyant soloist if they’re to hold one’s attention. For all the impressive assurance of his playing, I’m not sure that the sweet-toned Gautier Capuçon quite fits the bill. His finale is altogether too relaxed, with the trite rondo theme rather over-phrased; and his etiolated tone in the slow movement makes the piece sound curiously languid.

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The tauter C major Concerto is altogether more convincing, with Capuçon greatly aided by Daniel Harding’s incisive conducting, and by the sensible inclusion of a harpsichord continuo – a feature lacking in many rival versions. All the same, Heinrich Schiff’s more robust performances leave a stronger impression, as does the fine version by Steven Isserlis. While Schiff’s Philips disc leaves you short-changed with just the two concertos, Isserlis throws in the cello-solo Adagio from Haydn’s Symphony No. 13, as well as the late Sinfonia concertante for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon. Capuçon offers a Vivaldi-inspired D major Concerto previously attributed to Haydn, and in no way inferior to the genuine article in the same key. Misha Donat