Michael Haydn’s Serenade

Johann Michael Haydn was the younger brother of the much more successful and famous Franz Joseph Haydn. It’s not surprising that Michael’s work is seldom performed. Who could compete with the father of the symphony and the string quartet?

But during their lifetimes, that fame didn’t matter. Michael Haydn was able to have a successful career, and was well-thought of by his contemporaries. And it’s not that his music is bad. It’s really very good — it’s just that brother Franz’s is great.

The 1768 Serenade in D major is one of Michael’s more frequently recorded compositions (his trumpet concerto holds the record). And in this case, it’s the only work on the record.

Serenades were designed for light listening, and this one is no exception. It compares favorably to those of Mozart and brother Franz; short movements with simple and appealing melodies.

Michael’s Serenade showcases various instruments, adding variety and interest to the proceedings. Violin, cello, flute, horn, and trombone all get some time in the spotlight. The Virtuosi Saxoniae perform in a slightly reserved fashion appropriate to the style. This was music designed to pass the time with pleasant listening, and in that it succeeds.

I wouldn’t recommend the Serenade as an introduction to Michael Haydn. If, however, you’re already familiar with his work, this will make a nice addition to your collection.

Johann Michael Haydn: Serenade in D major, P.87 
Virtuosi Saxoniae; Ludwig Güttler, conductor
Capriccio Encore, C8003

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