Haydn Sinfonietta Wien and Manfred Huss have possibly done more than any other performers when it comes to spreading the music of Haydn’s earliest years, resurrecting scores which for decades and even centuries have been lying forgotten in archives. Their endeavours began already in the 1980s, and recordings of the composer’s Scherzandi (the forerunners of the symphonies) and many other works were released on the Koch Schwann label in the 1990s. Long since deleted from the catalogue, these have become collectors’ items, with asking prices reaching upwards of USD 150 even for used copies. Beginning in 2009, the team’s collaboration with BIS has resulted in new and important additions to the Haydn discography, such as Acide, the earliest surviving stage work, and a collection of rare arias composed for the opera house at Eszterháza Palace. But parallell to these new projects, the acclaimed recordings of instrumental works have been resurrected, and remastered versions have been released together with newly written texts by Manfred Huss, taking in the results of the latest in Haydn research. Previous such collections are the 6-disc set of Scherzandi, Baryton Octets and Lira Concerti (BIS-1796 CD) and the 2-disc set of the complete overtures (BIS-1818 CD). Forming a worthy finale to this series of re-releases, the present set of five discs includes all of the extant early Divertimenti by Haydn: works composed in the 1750s and 60s for ensembles of winds and strings in various combinations and typically scored for between 5-9 players. The earliest divertimenti reveal roots in the Baroque (with beautifully eloquent slow movements), but also offer ample evidence of the young composer’s powers of invention and eagerness to experiment, both in terms of form (the minuets suggestive of those in much later symphonies) and instrumentation – besides some spectacular writing for the French horn, Haydn was one of the first to use both the clarinet and cor anglais extensively. A common factor in the works including strings is the all-important, and often virtuosic parts for the first violin – here safely entrusted to the eminent Simon Standage, who is also the soloist in the Violin Concerto in C major Hob.VIIa:1 which has been chosen as the closing work of the box. Besides the recordings originally released by Koch/Schwann on five separate CDs, this set also includes 70 minutes worth of new recordings, focussing on the Feldparthien – those divertimenti which only involve wind instruments.
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