Short, but nonetheless entertaining, the lunchtime series at St George’s, Bristol put on a show with the final of their Hidden Haydn concerts. The programme was designed to explore the lost and less frequently played works of Franz Joseph Haydn (1832-1809), with a couple of treats from less well-known composers thrown in. The hour started with a trio for flute, violin and cello, and cleverly finished with another work for the same instruments, echoing the sonata form for which Haydn was so well known.

Members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

In his Duo in C minor, composer Franz Danzi (1763-1826) created a rich sound with scalic melodies and driving continuo rhythms injecting the piece with excitement. Two extremely good soloists played off against each other as the melodies were bounced between them. Cellist Robin Michael studied at the Royal Academy of Music and made his recital debut in 2003. On stage he was lively and interesting to watch especially as he grasps the witty nature of the classical style of composition. Tom Dunn complemented Robin Michael on the viola. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and is now co-principal viola in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Dunn played with little physical movement on stage, though still conveyed the romantic element of the later classical era, putting plenty of expression into the music. The minor passages in the Allegro were particularly beautiful.

The other duo of the concert (Sonata in F) was composed by Michael Haydn (1737-1831), Franz Joseph Haydn’s brother. Michael, the younger of the two Haydns, had his career paved out for him by Franz Joseph, starting off as a chorister and ending up as a Kappellmeister in Salzburg, where he wrote just under four hundred compositions. The Sonata in F mirrors his brother’s style in sonata form, but with some interesting double-stopping on the violin and viola at the end of phrases. Alongside Tom Dunn, violinist Matthew Truscott performed a melting melody in the Adagio. The sustained notes were elegant but somewhat taken away from the audience by Truscott’s inhaling as he felt the suspense in the music. Despite this addition to the music, it was played extremely well.

Composer Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), also followed in Haydn’s footsteps, becoming one of his favourite students. His Quartet in D, B381 provided the central performance to the programme with all hands on deck. As a quartet, the soloists meshed together with clear communication between them. Flautist Lisa Beznosiuk had a more playful role in this piece in comparison to the opening Haydn Trio in D. She is a leading performer on early flutes and this composition allowed her talent to be demonstrated. The canonic style of the Allegro draws the listener in and propelled a fair few members of the audience to the edge of their seat. This Pleyel quartet also gave us Matthew Truscott’s shining moment, in the Adagio on the violin.

It was a shame that the audience diminished by a third after the penultimate piece. The concert had extended to over an hour, and they probably had to return to work. But it ended with an uplifting rendition of the Trio in C, Op. 11 no. 5 by Franz Joseph Haydn, of which the presto was an effective climax to the concert. All in all, a well-rounded concert with some very interesting soloists and a well thought-out programme, giving deserved hommage to some lesser-known works of the classical era.

***11