Classical CD Of The Week: A Timeless Combination Of Ligeti And Haydn

Shai Wosner

The idea of combining the music of Joseph Haydn with that of György Ligeti is an inspired one. There is a reason why Haydn works very well with contemporary composers (so long as they have a playfulness, joy, and a wry smile in their writing): his is music that schools the ears in listening carefully, it readies us for acute perception, and it is timeless because it is so exceptionally well crafted and so sublimely constructed. In turn, Haydn can benefit from modern disc- or concert-mates in that any interpreter that programs such composers next to each other has already shown that he will take Haydn very seriously; that he will not treat Haydn as the warm-up work; that he (in this case) has understood that Haydn isn’t easy but terrifyingly difficult to do well.

It shows in Shai Wosner’s disc on Onyx that couples two piano concertos and two Capriccios of Haydn with the two Capriccios and the Piano Concerto of Ligeti. This combines earthy wit, mildly crude jokes, and the epitome of elegance and refinement. And that’s just Haydn, namely in the Fourth Concerto in G major, the Variation-Fantasy on how to castrate a boar[1] a.k.a. Capriccio in G major, and the D major concerto, No.11.

If this still sounds just too attractive, it might be reiterated that this is not background music suitable for when Aunt Trudy is coming over for tea and biscuits. She might be too polite to say something, but it would decidedly disturb – not please – her… until the Haydn is back on. But if your cutoff isn’t late Schumann; if Stravinsky and Bartók give you a kick, and if you have listened to György Kurtág without regret, you can bet youryouknowwhat that you’ll be in for a real treat with this release. Wosner and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas Collon execute impeccably and with absolutely all the waggishness and spunk and elegance that is required.
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