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Dan Davis
La Folia, November 2009

Haydn didn’t write many concertos relative to other genres, and of the nine once attributed to him, only four were genuine and of those, one is lost. The three on this disc, then, constitute his available violin concerto output, written as showcases for the virtuoso principal violinist of Haydn’s orchestra at the Esterházy court, Luigi Tomasini. I don’t know how Tomasini measured up to the works’ demands but Hadelich certainly does. He’s terrific in their showy sections, with all the flash and fireworks you’d want in the double-stopping and ornamental figurations. But he also excels in slow movements; the violin’s song in the exquisite Adagio of Concerto No.1 is suffused with intense feeling and tonal sweetness.

Müller-Brühl and his modern-instrument Cologne Chamber Orchestra offer stylish support and the engineering is admirably transparent. These may be early works but they’re gorgeous ones I play often without diminished enjoyment. In fact, I’ve played them so often in 2009 that I’ll break my self-imposed parameter of only 2009 releases to include this 2008 release—when such a marvelous disc comes along, what do a few months matter?

Rick Anderson
Baker & Taylor CD Hotlist, February 2009

The brilliant young violinist Augustin Hadelich teams up with one of Europe’s finest modern-instrument classical-era ensembles for this very fine account of Haydn’s first, third and fourth violin concertos. Originally written for the virtuosic Luigi Tomasini, these pieces show Haydn’s genius for wringing the last drop of technical ability from his soloists while keeping the music light, fresh, and effortlessly tuneful.

Tim Perry
MusicWeb International, September 2008

Helmut Müller-Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra have contributed a number of fine discs to the ongoing Naxos-Haydn project , but this disc is one of their very best. Let us give conductor and orchestra their due—the playing is stylish and period sensitive, with vibrato kept to a minimum and a merry harpsichord continuo tinkling its way through the performances. Müller-Brühl’s tempi are consistently well chosen and his direction is clear-sighted. He is no Thomas Fey or Nicholas Harnoncourt: he does not blaze or tweak your nose. He is, though, a reliably fine Haydn conductor with a feel for Haydn’s poetry and an ability to bring off his zippy finales.

This much we expect from the Cologne forces. What raises this disc from being another solid recommendation to being one to seek out is the revelation of 24 year old violinist Augustin Hadelich. German by descent and Italian by birth, Hadelich has an old fashioned sound that brings these concertos to life.

Here is a violinist who clearly enjoys the charm and elegance of Haydn’s music, but feels its emotional content too. His playing is beautiful rather than pretty—his full, rounded but middled tone contrasting with the historically-informed performance style of his collaborators. Not that his style jars with theirs: the contrast simply serves to snap the listener’s attention to the solo line. The technical polish and dynamic control of his playing is easy to take for granted given his musicality and propulsive rhythmic thrust, but it is worth remarking as he handles the virtuoso demands of all three concertos effortlessly. His slow movements are wistfully beautiful, woven with wonderfully long-breathed phrasing. The cadenzas in each concerto—Hadelich’s own—are idiomatic and enthralling: from the honey-toned cadenza of the C major concerto’s first movement to the surprisingly passionate cadenzas of the first movement of the A major concerto and the slow movement of the G major concerto.

As for the music itself, it should be self-recommending. As Keith Anderson’s booklet notes explain, of the nine concertos for violin once attributed to Haydn, only four were really his and the second of these has been lost. The three violin concertos on this album, then, are all that is left to us.

Haydn’s concertos for violin are the poor cousins of Mozart’s violin concertos as far as the catalogue is concerned, but they are far better than their relative neglect suggests. All three concertos are beautifully proportioned and ear-ticklingly engaging. The C major concerto that opens the disc has a proud opening movement and a witty finale in which the orchestra interacts with the soloist’s florid lines by repeating its agreement emphatically, to with the rhythm and the sense of: “That is just what I think. That is just what I think. That is just what I think.” The G major is quite lovely and the A major is probably the highpoint of the set in its union of poetry and high-wire thrills. When played as well as they are here, these concertos are hard to resist.

American Record Guide, September 2008

It would be very easy to love Augustin Hadelich’s violin playing simply for his crystalline technical facility or his always-interesting singing sound, but I am partial to his long and deep sense of phrase, his sensual relationship to the pitches that really ring on his instrument, and his fresh approach to Haydn. There is something about his playing that excites my “inner violinist” (something that always seems to be at odds from my “outer violinist”) in a way that no other violinist excites it. There is something unique about his playing: perhaps a purity of intent or a direct line to what is essential in music. It is difficult to describe, but it is easy to recognize.

He is able to let phrases soar in the air, making great and graceful arcs; and then he lets them land lightly, yet decisively. Hearing him play Haydn makes me happy—not a giddy kind of happy, but a balanced kind of happy. While the music is playing, I have a feeling that all is right with the world.

This recording is one of his prizes for winning the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Another prize is the use for four years of the ex-Gingold Stradivarius, the instrument that he plays here. Each component of the trio of Haydn, Hadelich, and Stradivari brings out the best in the others, and Hadelich’s stunningly-beautiful cadenzas reflect (and sometimes even improve on) the best moments in these concertos.

I am impressed that he chose these three Haydn concertos for his Naxos recording. Even though they are extremely difficult to play they do not appear virtuosic to the non-violinist. Aside from the First Concerto in C, these works are not very popular. Violinists and people who play with violinists know that they all require a tremendous amount of musicianship and technical strength to play well, and they also demand an excellent accompanying orchestra, which Hadelich has in Helmm Muller-Bruhl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra.

James H. North
Fanfare, September 2008

You’ve heard it all before: Haydn wasn’t interested in the concerto form; its ritornello structures denied him the opportunity for musical drama that sonata form allowed him in string quartets and symphonies; only the D-Major Piano Concerto, the two cello concertos, and the very late Trumpet Concerto have any interest for us. This happy hour of violin concertos demolishes such received opinion. These three concertos balance neatly on the intersection of rococo and Classical styles. They may not be melodically distinguished, but they are lively and charming, in part due to their virtuoso nature—they were written for Luigi Tommasini, Haydn’s Esterhazy concertmaster and a famous soloist before that.

This Cologne ensemble switched to period instruments in 1976 and then switched back in 1987, bowing to “the needs of modem concert halls.” It nevertheless creates a convincing aura of period practice. Violinist Hadelich studied with Joel Smimoff at Juilliard. His 1683 ex-Gingold Stradivarius is strung with steel, of course; but he, too, submerges himself in the world of the 1760s, including writing appropriate, delightful cadenzas. The instrument’s bright sound and his crisp playing make me solo line stand out nicely from the string accompaniments. All are well captured by Naxos’s fresh, clean recording. There have been many fine recordings on instruments of all periods, by violinists from Isaac Stem to Gil Shaham, but I like this disc as well as any I’ve heard, not least for including all three surviving Haydn violin concertos.

No world-beater perhaps, but this disc is a charmer.

Mike D. Brownell, June 2008

Augustin Hadelich…playing is crisp and energetic, filled with appropriately and successfully-taken risk…His lucid tone and brilliant articulation is matched measure for measure by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra…equally exciting and engaging orchestral tuttis.

Dan Davis, June 2008

There are fine recordings of Haydn’s Violin Concertos by the likes of Arthur Grumiaux and Christian Tetzlaff, among others. Here’s another that belongs in their company, and at budget price, too. Augustin Hadelich is a Juilliard prize-winner who brings youthful élan to the three authenticated Haydn violin concertos, adding his own apt cadenzas to them as well. They’re early works, dating from the 1760s during Haydn’s service for the Esterházy court. Likely written for performance by the noted virtuoso Luigi Tomasini, they’re lovely pieces with ample showiness in double-stopping episodes and spirited passagework.

The C major concerto is especially notable for its sprightly outer movements flanking an exquisite Adagio, sweetly sung by Hadelich, who plays it with an affecting inwardness and intensity of feeling. He’s also well up to the brilliance of the A major concerto’s solo part and the virtuoso touches that characterize the G major trio, with its use of dotted notes, double-stopping, and ornamentation. Here, as elsewhere in the program, Hadelich demonstrates a tonal sweetness in the high register that is instantly appealing. The only possible aspect of his performances that could engender dissent is the occasional use of a slow vibrato that put me in mind of a wobbly soprano.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

At one time credited with nine concertos, we now know that only the three included on this disc were actually the work of Joseph Haydn.

While they are skilled compositions, they were somewhat lacking in memorable thematic material, the finales bouncy rather than exciting. Technically they are undemanding, though at the time would appear to have been written for a virtuoso colleague of the composer. As a sampling point try track 3, the finale of the C major concerto, the best known and finest of the three concertos. They are here played by the winner of the 2006 Indianapolis International Violin Competition, Augustin Hadelich, an Italian violinist of German parentage who has the enormous benefit of the famous 1683 ex-Gingold Stradivari instrument. His view looks to add weight and import to the music, and is successful on both counts. A neat player with lots of technique that allows him to introduce a virtuoso element in the cadenzas he has composed for all three works. He is partnered by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra under Helmut Muller-Bruhl, and, as one would expect, they give expert accompaniment without that puritanical ‘period authenticity’. The recording comes from Deutschlandfunk and ideally balances soloist and orchestra, bringing a nice bloom to Hadelich’s elegant tonal quality.

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