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Haydn: Symphonies Nos 80 & 81, etc

Lucas Blondeel (fortepiano); Le Concert d’Anvers/Bart Van Reyn (Fuga Libera)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Symphony No. 80 in D minor, Hob. I:80; Piano Concerto in D, Hob. XVIII:11; Symphony No. 81 in G, Hob. I.81
Lucas Blondeel (fortepiano); Le Concert d’Anvers/Bart Van Reyn
Fuga Libera FUG 755   62:06 mins


The two symphonies recorded here were written in the early 1780s, immediately before Haydn’s famous series for Paris, Nos. 82-87. The D minor Symphony No. 80 kicks off in dramatic style – almost like a throwback to the turbulent Sturm und Drang style Haydn had cultivated more than a decade earlier. And yet the music’s seriousness is suddenly swept aside by a simple waltz tune which provides the main point of focus in the central portion of the movement. Bart Van Reyn stresses the tune’s tongue-in-cheek character by pulling back the tempo slightly and giving it an additional lilt. Haydn’s wit is very much to the fore in the finale, too, where the main theme’s repeated-note syncopation makes it impossible for the listener to register where the beat falls.

The first movement of the G major Symphony No. 81 finds Haydn experimenting with the recapitulation, effectively presenting his themes in reverse order. The trio of that symphony’s minuet offers another waltz-like theme, which this time unexpectedly fetches up in the minor, casting a glow of melancholy over the music.

More familiar than the symphonies is the D major Piano Concerto, with its irresistible gypsy-style finale. Lucas Blondeel is the brilliant soloist, injecting the keyboard part with just the right amount of expressive freedom. He provides his own stylish cadenzas, and even manages at one point to quote a few bars from Mozart’s D minor Fantasy K397. Performances of all three works are lively and compelling, and the recording is first-rate. Haydn-lovers should definitely indulge.


Misha Donat