Joseph Haydn composed some two dozen specific-occasion concerti, most of which have been lost. Only few of the remaining ones have made it to the concert repertoire, including his Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major, considered to be one of the most cherished works of the solo repertoire.
Although it had been published in the composer’s lifetime, for a long time its authorship was contested and attributed to Antonín Kraft until in the early 1950s Haydn’s manuscript was found, setting the matter. Kraft was first cellist of the Esterházy orchestra from 1778 to 1790, and it is believed that the cello part of the D-major Cello Concerto D major was tailored to his abilities.
The first movement (Allegro moderato) melds the traditional alternation of solo and tutti with the new sonata form. Played by the violins, the initial melody sets the atmosphere and motivic character of the entire work in that almost every subsequent theme is variation of its elements. The second movement (Adagio) is a magical A-major serenade in which the rondo-like returns of the symmetrical main theme also include an E-major and a more remote C-major section. The third movement (Allegro) was also written in rondo form. The cheerful, rocking theme is followed by a first episode involving novel techniques. The second episode shifts to D-minor, creating a contrast to the final return of the main theme.