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James Manheim, September 2009

Designated as concertos, they resemble the divertimenti, the workaday music from early in Haydn’s service to the Esterházy family. Only the Concerto in G major, Hob. 7b/3, really has the full Classical concerto double exposition in its opening movement; most of the music loosely shifts between the solo instruments and the small orchestra of strings and horns. But, given how strange the lira organizzata must have sounded, perhaps that was exactly the point. Without it, this is a pleasant collection of rather unremarkable chamber music, distinguished by clear studio sound.

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2009

This absolutely delightful disc includes all five surviving concertos that Haydn wrote in 1786 for King Ferdinand IV of Naples for the lira organizzata, an oddball instrument combining the qualities of a street hurdy-gurdy with a small chamber organ. Maverick that he was, Haydn refused to let the instrument’s limitations circumscribe his compositional style, but rather allowed his imagination full rein while producing music of lightness and humor combined with strict divertimento form. With lire organizzate being unavailable in other cities, Haydn simply adapted the music to be played by two recorders or flutes and an oboe, simulating the high, reedy sound of King Ferdinand’s instrument.

Technical description of the music would take too much space and would be, I feel, unnecessary to anyone familiar with Haydn’s style. Needless to say, Haydn was a composer who never cheated his audience by writing “down,” even when commissioned to tailor his style to a specific instrument or player. Thus, the solo parts, though technically undemanding, are musically clever, complementing the more complex music of the string and horn orchestra that accompanies them. Indeed, he liked this music so well that he used the second and third movements of the fifth concerto (in F, Hob. VIIh:5) as a basis for his Symphony No. 89 (1787). It’s also interesting to note that the opening theme of this concerto’s first movement bears a close resemblance to the last movement of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, and in turn is a development of the beginning of the last movement of Haydn’s own Symphony No. 13 of 1763. Its development here, of course, is entirely different, given the nature of the thematic material and the instrumental texture.

I cannot say enough good things about the playing of either soloists or orchestra here. They are lively, charming, boisterous, elegant, and humorous in turn as the music progresses. Photos and bios of all the soloists are, thankfully, given in the booklet, and they are a lively, racially diverse, and well-schooled lot. Germans Rothert and Spätling, the recorder-players, are pupils of Günther Höller of the Cologne Music School. Frenchman Fromanger and Dane Ingo Nelken both studied flute with Jean-Pierre Rampal, though their other teachers are quite different, while oboist Hommel studied with the superb Heinz Holliger. Müller-Brühl, a name unfortunately unknown to me, is the oldest of the lot, which makes sense since his conducting style is evidently from the same school as my faves of the 1950s and 1960s, Woldike, Leitner, Münchinger, Rilling, and Ristenpart. Under his direction, this music for lire organizzate breathes the air of the streets of Naples as much as the concert halls of Austria. This music may not add particularly to your appreciation of Haydn or his musical lexicon, but it will not be a background disc for dinner parties, either. Trust me, people will stop talking and eating and just listen, that’s how good it is.

James H. North
Fanfare, July 2009

The most important thing about lire organizzate is that Haydn wrote five (or six) concertos and eight (or nine) notturni for pairs of them in 1786–90; he was also foresighted enough to fit all five concertos onto a single CD. Because the instrument has been virtually extinct, performances have generally been given in arrangements for wind instruments, even for two guitars…This Naxos disc presents a variety of solo instruments: the First and Fifth concertos are played by a pair of recorders, the Second and Fourth by flute and oboe, the Third by two flutes. The happy spirit and overflowing charm of these concertos are fully captured here…

Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, May 2009

…orchestral accompaniments are perhaps the best these works have ever had—as is the sound. Good notes.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, April 2009

The Lira, the favourite instrument of King Ferdinand IV of Naples, was a cross between a hurdy-gurdy and a chamber organ. This instrument is now obsolete so in order for us to hear these charming pieces Naxos gives us Haydn’s complete works for Lira in arrangements for 2 recorders (nos.1 and 5), flute and oboe (nos.2 and 4), two flutes (no.3). It has sensibly avoided our hearing the same sonority in two consecutive works; this would, I am sure, have led to boredom brought about by too much of the same thing.

Each of these five works are in three movements—fast/slow/fast—and each is light and frothy. Oddly, even though these works weren’t written for the solo instruments employed here the writing, especially that taken by the oboe, is pure Haydn. It couldn’t have been written by anyone else.

The works happily follow one another without any special event crossing the musical horizon. Perhaps one shouldn’t listen to the whole disk in one sitting. But then you get the shock of your life with the slow movement of the 3rd Concerto. To all intents and purposes it’s the slow movement of the 100th Symphony, but without the percussion! It’s quite delightful too and is followed by a more serious finale than those of its predecessors. After this the 4th Concerto seemed much more sober. On the other hand the abiding impression is works that are really good humoured, and good natured works. So I played it again the next day and discovered that it was the seriousness of the slow movement of No.3 which had coloured my feelings. The last two concertos are as delightful, and spontaneously enjoyable, as the rest. I first met the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, and its conductor, Helmut Müller-Brühl, when reviewing the Naxos complete Haydn Symphonies set [8.503400]. He directs sprightly and easy-going accounts of these works, but, as in the Symphonies, he occasionally insists on making huge rallentandi at cadence points, and not necessarily at the conclusion of the fast movements.

The five soloists give very enjoyable, and musical, performances of these pieces and one would love to hear them all in more substantial works for their instruments. Despite my small niggle about the rallentandi, and the fact that although the recording is crisp and clear, it does leave the violins sometimes sounding a bit wiry above the stave, this is a disk worth having. It fills in another gap in our knowledge of this always interesting composer.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, January 2009

Just about all of Haydn’s music is unfailingly tuneful; this is mature music from the mid 1780s, roughly contemporaneous with the Paris symphonies; completists will want the recording in this bi-centenary year of his death but, if you have yet to make the acquaintance of some of his 107+ symphonies, I’d go there first—you could do a great deal worse in most cases than Naxos’s own recordings of these, now gathered into a giant box set [8.503400]

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

Composed around 1786, the disc is a perfect example of Haydn’s commercial instincts, the series of concertos for King Ferdinand of Naples, being for Lire Organizzate, a hybrid that brought together a chamber organ and the popular hurdy-gurdy. He would have composed the normal group of six concertos, though only the five here recorded now remain. Without a surviving instrument, they are here performed by various permutations of recorders, flutes and oboe as soloists, though I doubt that it really matters who plays them as I guess the composer would not have been interested. Scored for orchestra comprising strings and two horns, they are the product of a competent kapellmeister of the time, and though the choice of instruments for this recording brings a nice rustic character to the pieces, a chamber organ might have been more appropriate. Yet even in shavings from a master-craftsman’s bench you will find little gems, the finale to the second concerto having a catchy tune that is pure delight. There are one or two ‘woody’ recorder notes that sound awkward, but throughout the solo playing gets around a lot of notes with suitable agility, while conductor, Helmut Muller-Bruhl, receives the customary polished response from the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. The disc forms part of Naxos’s Haydn Concerto Series and the sound quality is first-class.

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