These performances are full of character and acumen, and you won’t go far wrong if you acquire these traversals.
Halstead turned increasingly to conducting in the 1990s, though he’d certainly waved a stick about long before then. Nevertheless I look on the late 1980s, rightly or wrongly, as a sustained period of brilliance in his horn playing and, here, as an exponent of the natural horn, with its hand-stopping demands. There is no diminution of quality in his Haydn concerto performances — Michael, as well as Joseph, is represented.
Joseph Haydn’s D major Concerto calls upon a command of high harmonies as well as the ability to sustain notes from the horn’s lower range. Here Halstead proves imperturbable maintaining a fine body of tone as he negotiates his way through sustained notes, trills, and the wide range necessary. His slow movement is gravely spun and his own cadenza excellently in keeping stylistically.
Conjecturally dated to 1777, Michael Haydn’s concerto, in the same key of D major, is interestingly proportioned, opening with a graceful Larghetto. Halstead’s extensive and virtuosic central movement cadenza is realised with panache and the Menuett that ends the word is deftly pleasing. Goodman’s accompaniment throughout both these works is athletic, lean and collaborative. He and the Hanover Band contribute an appropriate Hornsignal Symphony, nicely textured, full of proportionate vigour. The concertante roles for the string principals in the finale are dutifully taken, though occasionally intonation wavers.
The recording was made at Frognal School, not at the usual company base at Wyastone, and it sounds very well indeed, warm and not cloudy. The notes are by John Humphries who did excellent work in editing Joseph Haydn’s concerto. If you have Halstead’s fine Mozart Concertos (NI 5104) disc you might well want to add this all-Haydn one to it.
Jonathan Woolf, Musicweb-international.com