Michael Haydn Concertos Worth Reviving

Michael Haydn was a great composer — just not as great as his older brother Franz Joseph. The two were both highly regarded during their lifetimes. But over time Franz Joseph’s popularity completely eclipsed Michael’s.

To be fair, choral music was Michael Haydn’s forte. But his relatively few orchestral works are more than historical curiosities. One of his string quartets, for example, was misattributed to Franz Joseph. And for years, Michael Haydn’s Symphony No. 25 was credited to Mozart.

The Capella Savria present four of Michael Haydn’s concertos. These include his two flute concertos and two of three violin concertos. Haydn composed the works in Salzburg, where he was a friend of the Mozarts.

The concertos bear some similarities to Leopold Mozart’s style. The melodic phrases are balanced and clearly defined. The solo parts require a high degree of skill to play. But they’re not especially flashy. The elegance of expression tempers the technical challenges.

The Capella Savaria performs on period instruments, tuned to A=430 Hz. Modern orchestras tune to A=440 Hz. The lower tuning gives the ensemble an added warmth. It also softens the extremes of the upper registers for both the solo flute and violin. To me, the lower pitches added the overall beauty of the works.

Andrea Bertalan performs with a wooden transverse flute. Her playing capitalizes on the mellow tones of the instrument. The lyricism of the slow movements especially benefits from her performance.

As a soloist, Zsolt Kalló plays with tasteful energy. There’s excitement in his performances that’s in sync with the style of the music. He delivers a clean, singing tone from his instrument that I found quite appealing.

Just give this album a listen. Franz Joseph Haydn admired his brother’s music. You should too.

Michael Haydn: Violin and Flute Concertos
Capella Savaria; Zsolt Kalló, conductor and violin;
Andrea Bertalan, flute
Hungaroton HCD 32865 

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