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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809): Divertimentos

[I] "Six Divertimenti"
Ensemble Sans Souci Berlina

rec: April 6 - 8, 2009, Eitorf, Theater am Park
CPO - 777 511-2 (© 2010) (63'04")

[II] "Divertissements & Trios: London/Leipzig"
Le Chardonb

rec: [no date], Leer, Große Kirche
Lunaris - 18240 (© 2009) (69'10")

Divertimento in D (H IV,6)ab [2]; Divertimento in G (H IV,7)ab [2]; Divertimento in C (H IV,8)ab [2]; Divertimento in G (H IV,9)a [2]; Divertimento in A (H IV,10)a [2]; Divertimento in D (H IV,11)a [2]; Sonata V (after Divertimento a 9 in G, H II,9)b [1]; Trio in D (H XI,82)ab [3]; Trio in G (H XI,100)b [3]; Trio in G (H XI,118)b [3]

(Sources: [1] [J.J. Hummel] Six Sonates a Flute, Violon & Violoncello composées par Guiseppe Haydn, Oeuvre 11, 1771; [2] 6 Divertissements, 1784; [3] [Simrock] Six Trios pour Flûte, Violon & Violoncelle composés par J. Haydn, 1803/04

[I] Christoph Huntgeburth, transverse flute; Irmgard Huntgeburth, violin; Sibylle Huntgeburth, cello
[II] Hajo Wienroth, transverse flute; Simon Standage, violin; Poppy Walshaw, cello

The second half of the 18th century saw the emergence of diverting music for amateurs. Huge numbers of pieces with various descriptions, like serenade, divertimento or cassation, but also more traditional titles like trio and sonata, were published all over Europe. One of the most popular instruments among amateurs was the transverse flute. Many composers took profit of the increasing demand of music which was not too technically complicated, and it is no surprise many pieces with parts for one or more flutes were printed. It is remarkable that Haydn did not compose much for the flute. The pieces he did write were mostly the result of contacts with English publishers who encouraged him to contribute to the growing repertoire for this instrument. The English market was one of the largest in Europe, and nowhere the flute was as popular as in England.

The two main series of pieces for the flute from Haydn's pen are the three Trios for flute, cello and keyboard (H XV,15-17) and the so-called 'London Trios' for two flutes and cello (H IV,1-4). The two discs which are reviewed here present another series of trios with flute, called Divertimenti or Divertissements. They are performed here with flute, violin and cello, but Haydn scored them for two violins and cello, with the flute as an alternative for the first violin. This was quite common: alternative scorings increased the number of potential purchasers.

The English publisher William Forster was the first who was able to enter into a contract with Haydn. The composer sold him symphonies, string quartets, piano trios and also the six divertimentos which the Ensemble Sans Souci Berlin has recorded completely and from which Le Chardon has chosen the first three. They have something in common: in five of them Haydn made use of material from his opera Il mondo della luna (H XXVIII,7). In the Divertimento in D (H IV,6) he uses the sinfonia to the second act and a chorus, in the Divertimento in G (H IV,7) and the Divertimento in C (H IV,8) he uses two arias from this opera. Lastly, in the Divertimento in A (H IV,10) and the Divertimento in D (H IV,11) he reworks material from the entrance music and the balletto. The Divertimento in G (H IV,9) is the exception, but this isn't original music either. This piece is an arrangement of the first three movements from the Trio for baryton, viola and cello in D (H XI,97) which Haydn had originally written for the birthday of his employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy.

This divertimento is also the link with the other pieces on the programme of both ensembles. In 1803/04 the publisher Simrock in Bonn printed a collection of six trios for flute, violin and cello "by Haydn", which were non-authorised arrangements of barytone trios. The three trios in D and G which are on these two discs are from this collection. In addition Le Chardon offers a Sonata V (the key is not given) which comes from another collection of trios for flute, violin and cello which were published as Haydn's opus 11 by J.J. Hummel in Amsterdam. It is again probably not authorised; this trio is an arrangement of the Divertimento a 9 in G (H II,9), originally scored for two flutes or oboes, two horns, two violins, two violas and bass.

All these pieces have a diverting character, of course, but as we may expect from Haydn that doesn't mean it is all light-weight stuff. There are certainly some more serious episodes, like in the opening allegro of the Divertimento in G (H IV,8). The same goes for the andante con espressione and especially the following adagio from the Divertimento in A (H IV,10). This piece is then concluded by a short and sparkling tempo di menuetto. The mixture of serious and joyful - and often humorous - movements is typical of Haydn and one of the reasons that his music is often irresistable.

The two ensembles have captured the spirit of these works quite well. In comparison to Le Chardon the Ensemble Sans Souci Berlin is a bit more subtle in its treatment of dynamics, and the contrasts between the fast and slow movements are also a little stronger. The fast movements are mostly faster and the slow movements somewhat slower. But these are details and I have greatly enjoyed both recordings. The only aspect which is clearly in the Berlin ensemble's favour is the acoustic. The CPO recording has more intimacy, very much reflecting the atmosphere of private chambers or salons where this kind of music was performed. In comparison Le Chardon's recording has a bit too much reverberation.

If I would have to make a choice I would go for the Ensemble Sans Souci Berlin, also because it offers the complete set of six Divertimenti. But if you do so you would miss the three additional pieces Le Chardon offers, and that would be a shame. So if you are a true Haydn aficionado and you can afford to purchase both, you won't regret it if you do.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Sans Souci Berlin
Le Chardon

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