Relatively little is known about composer/virtuoso Andreas Lidl. According to the notes accompanying this recording, he was born in Vienna and served in the Esterházy court orchestra from May 1769 to May 1774, probably as a cellist, but "most of his time was spent playing chamber music on the baryton, his primary instrument." The liner notes don't speculate further as to Lidl's years in the court, but if this is correct, then Lidl may well have performed at least some of Haydn's baryton trios - and perhaps there is more to the story of Haydn's works being written for his patron at Esterházy, Prince Nikolaus I, to perform himself. Might Lidl have given lessons to the Prince on the obscure instrument - which even back then was virtually unknown outside of South Germany and Austria? After all, as several reviews of various recordings of Haydn's works for the instrument have noted, some of the baryton parts are quite simple (allegedly because the Prince was an eager but amateur baryton player), while a few contain passages requiring a much more virtuoso artist. Further, some of the non-trio works Haydn composed contain parts for more than one baryton. The liner notes do provide details on what little is known of Lidl's post-Esterházy years, during which he spent time in various European cities (Paris, Augsburg, London), but was often traveling on tour as a virtuoso viola da gamba and baryton player. By the time he earned mention in Charles Burney's General History of Music (published in 1789), Lidl was deceased.
I purchased this recording as an experiment. My intention was to use it to judge whether or not I really want to take the plunge and purchase the Esterházy Trio's complete (21 CD!) set (also on Brilliant Classics) of Haydn's music with baryton (Baryton Trios: Complete). Though there are no other recordings of the present works (or, indeed, anything else as far as I can tell by Andreas Lidl), I am happy to report that the recording and performance are both of a high standard. The three instruments are always captured so that one may differentiate them, and the slightly silvery, buzzing sounds of the resonating sympathetic strings of the baryton are often heard to good effect (but see below). The performers balance one another nicely (after all, they had been playing together for about nine years when these recordings were set down in June, 2011), and tempos seem well judged. The music itself is pleasant, but there aren't any forgotten masterpieces here: all six of the divertimenti are in three movements, and all are in major keys (not at all uncommon for this sort of repertoire). The six works have been ordered in a way that sets the two divertimenti which contain a concluding "Tempo di Menuetto" between two which are structured differently, making up two "sets" of approximately 30 minutes - a nice way of listening to this music. For those wanting to sample the disc, I'd recommend the second movement Adagio from Divertimento No. 5, the longest movement on the disc (6'50) (Divertimento, No. 5 in D Major: II. Adagio), and the concluding Allegro from Divertimento No. 2 (Divertimento, No. 2 in C Major: III. Allegro).
Although some of Lidl's compositions were apparently published while he was in London (from the liner notes it's not clear if these have actually survived), the works recorded here are from a manuscript which indicates on the front page that they were originally composed for violin, viola da gamba and violoncello. The recording is based on the supposition that Lidl may have made personal use of them, substituting the baryton for the leading (violin) line. The deeper sounding viola da gamba* and cello support the higher and, in terms of sound projection, weaker baryton. Unfortunately, little use is made of the "self-accompaniment" which can result from strumming or plucking the sympathetic wire strings on the back or underside of the baryton (understandably so since the baryton is essentially playing transcriptions of the violin line). There is some use of the plucked strings in a solo passage towards the end of the Andante from Divertimento No. 3 [Track 7] and a few other spots (mostly doubling one of the lower parts while the full ensemble is playing). I had been hoping to hear more of the odd harp/lute/cimbalom sounds - especially since Lidl, according to Burney's account, is supposed to have increased the number of resonating/accompanying strings from the regular 9 or 10 up to an amazing 27! I'm guessing that instrument, like so much associated with Lidl, has not been preserved. (The baryton played by Michael Brüssing on this recording is a copy of one by J.J. Stadlmann, the original of which was played by Prince Esterházy himself.)
So, while I'm glad to have made the "acquaintance" of Andreas Lidl, and what little is known of him has given my inner musicologist some food for thought, I think I'll be holding off on the complete Haydn baryton set, at least for now. The Esterházy Trio (or Esterházy Ensemble, as they are referred to in the accompanying notes) are fine players, but one or two CDs with some of the more virtuosic of Haydn's Trios will probably suit me fine at the moment. Perhaps Brilliant will be so kind as to release a 2-CD set of those: a "Best of" the Baryton Trios? The booklet notes mention a 2003 recording (released on the CPO label in 2005) of works by Luigi Tomasini, another composer/virtuoso from the Esterházy court, with the same players. Perhaps Brilliant could get the license for that one since it doesn't appear to have been released in the US (only a "currently unavailable" Korean import is listed here on Amazon.com).
* The liner notes and CD insert state that in these performances a viola da gamba is being played by András Bolycki, and I'm assuming that is correct given the description of the intended instruments from the front page of Lidl's manuscript. However, the information on the instruments in the booklet lists a regular viola (not a viola da gamba) by Christian Franziscus Bartl (Vienna, 1795) and the photos show what appears to be a regular (i.e., under the chin) viola.