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Haydn: The Complete Early Divertimenti

Simon Standage (leader & solo violin)
Haydn Sinfonietta Wien/ Manfred Huss

BIS CD 1806/08 - 5 discs for the price of 3 [c. £42 from Amazon]

The rediscovery of previously unknown music by baroque composers is gathering pace and momentum. This is my first contact with Manfred Huss and his Haydn Sinfonietta, but in association with BIS they have been expanding knowledge of early Haydn for some years - Scherzandi, Baryton Octets and Lira Concerti (BISCD1796/98) and the the complete overtures (BISCD1818).

Not a "completist" or enthusiast for "intégrales" (e.g. Twelve Concertii Grosso etc etc) I approached this box with reservations, expecting a collection of immature trivia...

No-one could be mor wrong. This is a fascinating collection of significant scores which for decades and even centuries had been lying forgotten in archives. The box is a treasure trove, to be set alongside the Nimbus/Esterhazy/Fischer complete symphonies
[37 hours on 8 .mp3 CDs - c. £25 !].

There are some amazing discoveries to be made. Most of the works are for a few wind instruments with one-to-a-part strings. To mention a few; Disc 4 has an extraordinaryCassatio for four virtuoso horns, and has a delectable piano concerto unknown to me and playe deliciously by Manfred Huss himself.

There is only one point of overlap for comparison with the Symphonies collection; the Violin Concerto in C Hob. VIIa:1 (1765) features in both sets. Rainer Kuchl with the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, playing modern instruments, are smooth and expressive in the"Central European tradtion"; Fischer's full explanations of it are fascinating and persuasive. Huss with Simon Standage, "English doyen of historic violin playing", is vigorous and some may find it less ingratiating tonally; the BIS colections represent up to date research.

Purchase of both sets is urgently recommended, and they won't break the bank in these days of cuts and enforced austerity.

Peter Grahame Woolf