M Haydn Symphonies Nos 13 & 20; Notturno No. 1
Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss/Lavard Skou Larsen
CPO 555 042-2 62:39 mins
Although a gifted musician and composer (of around 800 works), Michael Haydn’s posthumous reputation has been overshadowed by the achievements of his older brother Joseph on the one hand, and on the other, in his working base of Salzburg, by the young genius upstart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The fact that he got on famously with both men and was greatly admired by them has seemingly made not a jot of difference. Indeed, the fact that Mozart ‘lifted’ a number of Michael’s ideas, and even as late as his Requiem Mass was still ‘recalling’ the older composer’s work is often overlooked.
Three cheers then for CPO who since the early 1990s have been gradually recording Michael’s complete symphonic oeuvre in authoritative performances, climaxing in the present issue, played with infectious joie de vivre by the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss under Lavard Skou Larsen, their principal conductor until last year. Not surprisingly closer to (early) Haydn frère than Mozart in terms of their gesturing and soundworld, these enchanting symphonic works of the 1770s are perhaps more notable for Michael’s endlessly inventive handling of his ideas rather than the ideas themselves. As a nice touch, alternative versions of two movements from No. 13 with added flute are also included.