Haydn: Organ Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Organ Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Organ and Violin Concerto in F
PERFORMER: Ton Koopman (organ), Catherine Manson (violin); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra


Limbering up to their latest ongoing project – the recording of Haydn’s complete London symphonies – Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra revisit territory they first surveyed some 30 years ago: three of the keyboard concertos Haydn composed to left and right of his arrival at Esterháza.

Relatively early works, they aspire neither to the profound dramas of Mozart’s mature minor-key piano concertos nor to the heroic grandeur of Beethoven’s Emperor; but to ears appreciative of music that kicks its heels with good humour and refreshing directness, there is pleasure to be had here. 

When Koopman first recorded the F major ‘double’ concerto he partnered the solo violin with harpsichord. Here organ joins violinist Catherine Manson in a conversation characterised by suave urbanity – the organ’s exuberant gurgles and violin’s debonair flourishes together entwining jollities spiked by the galant poise of the Largo.

Concertos Nos 1 and 2, Hob.XVIII, are both dispatched with immense gusto on the same Marc Garnier ‘positive’ organ (‘positive’ an apt description of its sparkly voicing), and although the Amsterdamers sometimes sound a little earnest alongside Koopman’s vivacity in the finale of the C major Concerto (its slow central Largo delivered with unexpected breeziness), there’s a sinewy muscularity in the opening movement of the D major whose verve saves the day when sequential note-spinning threatens to intrude. 


With his genial, deft, twinkly-eyed music-making, ‘Papa’ Koopman is the perfect fit for these unpretentious charmers. And charm he does. Paul Riley