- Baryton Trio in G major, H. 11/32
- Baryton Trio in D major, H. 11/63
Haydn's trios for baryton, viola, and cello were composed in the 1760s and 1770s for his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, who played the instrument and responded to Haydn's own attempts to learn by saying, "Haydn, you should know better." One thinks of the scene in which Joseph II told Mozart that his opera had too many notes, whereupon Mozart asked which ones he should remove. At any rate, these little works have been sparsely performed, partly because the baryton, a small bass viol with both bowed and sympathetic strings, is rare and difficult to play. The sympathetic strings can be plucked at the same time as the bow is playing the main strings. Haydn rarely makes use of this technique (apparently the prince's skills weren't up to it), but there is enough of a variety of sounds coming from the baryton that a cello is absolutely insufficient to capture the effect. Consider for example the opening movement of the Baryton "Trio No. 66 in A major Hob. 11/66," track 10, where all three instruments are plucked. The music derives its interest here from the contrast in timbre between the baryton and the other two instruments, and played on another cello the music would be just about meaningless. Not every movement of these five trios is as unusual as that, but the baryton sound is distinctive to all of them, and there are many nice touches such as the odd but confident seven-movement structure (including a fugue) of the "Trio No. 97 in D major, Hob. 11/97." Baryton player Markus Kuikka, a cellist oriented toward historical performance, gives the sort of subtle, quiet performance these works deserve, and the Finnish Baryton Trio is supported by excellent engineering, apparently in a concert hall, from the Sibelius Academy label. This is a fine place to start if you have ever been curious about these works, and the Finnish Baryton Trio still has very little competition.