Haydn: Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major
Performed by Shen Yun Artists
Yuching Cheng, Cello
Li Xuan, Conductor
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra
Franz Joseph Haydn’s second cello concerto was written in 1783, roughly two decades after his first. At the time, his bold, innovative writing played a huge role in the cello’s elevation to solo status, and accordingly, his two concerti remain staples in today’s repertoire. The D major concerto may have been composed for Anton Kraft, virtuoso and principal cellist of the Hungarian Esterhazy orchestra, of which Haydn was Kapellmeister for almost thirty years.
The piece is significantly challenging even by today’s standards. Much of it is written in high registers with passages full of harmonics, double stops, and arpeggios—when played on the shorter-necked cello used in Haydn’s time, these techniques would have proven even more difficult.
Due to the disappearance of the original score, the concerto’s authenticity remained in question all the way until the mid-1900s, when the original dated and signed manuscript finally resurfaced, proving without a doubt that the piece was a genuine Haydn composition.
The elegant first movement, lighthearted and refined, is punctuated by swirling runs and embellishments, like playful gusts of wind on a sunny day. As the music takes a turn into a minor tonality, skies darken as storm clouds move in. Soon enough, though, the sun reappears and the music resumes its original carefree demeanor.
The beautiful second movement is truly the soloist’s moment to sing. Warm, lyrical, and soothing, it provides a moment of peaceful contemplation before the advent of the cheerful third movement. Here, a recurring rondo theme alternates with vivacious technical passages, creating a joyful and uplifting atmosphere. Brief trips into minor key territory momentarily intensify the character, but before long, the rondo theme takes precedence once more. A final show of sparkling virtuosity from the soloist draws this delightful piece to a close.
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