Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Symphony No. 88 in G.
Symphony No. 101 in D,
Adam Fischer, cond; Austro-Hungarian Haydn O
MDG 9011441 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 55:18)
Fischer and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra recorded 107 Haydn Symphonies—including A, B, and the Sinfonia Concertante—from1987 to 2001. They began with the “Clock” and the “Drumroll.” That Nimbus disc was dreadful: the orchestra had little feel for Haydn, and the recording site, the Haydnsaal of the Esterhazy palace in Eisenstadt, where some of the works had been premiered, was so reverberant as to confound the engineers. Conductor, orchestra, and engineering got better with experience. When I wrote a Classical Hall of Fame review of the complete set (a 33-CD box from Brilliant Classics) I sampled many of the recordings in the order they were recorded. Improvements can be heard year by year; the final group—mostly symphonies numbered in the 30s—is breathtaking, played on modern instruments but with period sensitivities. Now Fischer and his Haydn orchestra are starting all over again, in the same hall, on SACD for MDG.
All the lessons have been learned. These are beautiful readings. Strings, winds, and brass blend perfectly, which may be the essential factor in any performance of the G-Major Symphony. I count 45 players in the team picture (taken in the gorgeous Haydnsaal), which means about 33 strings; they are modern instruments played lightly, so one is seldom aware of metal strings. Perhaps that’s why Fischer employs so many; they sound more like 20 than 33. The introduction is no Adagio, running about one third faster than six other performances I checked. I like Fischer’s rapid Allegro; fortunately, he gives us both repeats in this glorious movement. The Largo is also quick, but it has no feeling of impatience, as does Szell at a similar tempo. A soulful solo oboe helps the movement maintain its gravitas; trumpet and hard-stick drum outbursts are crisp and potent. The Menuet is highly pointed, at a relaxed tempo, a few
emphasize its rural nature. No repeats are taken in
returns. The finale begins at a measured pace but soon steps up to its
Allego con spirito
; like every other conductor, Fischer races through the coda. The CD layer sounds fine, but SACD cleans it up, reaching that marvelous stage where one can hear every part while sacrificing none of the blend. I’m not sure how MDG’s “2+2+2” recording translates into my five-channel system; it adds a fullness that blurs some of the details. Two-channel SACD is perfect for these performances. This is now my preferred recording of the G-Major Symphony.
The same virtues are offered in the D-Major Symphony. After another too-quick Adagio introduction, Fischer’s lively Presto is just right. Flute/violin balances are ideal, and the rambunctious trumpets-and-drum outbursts are delicious. The Andante, a movement for which the tempo should be obvious, is too fast. Have conductors forgotten the tempo of a ticking clock in this age of digital timepieces? The Menuet is crisp rather than swinging; Haydn’s wrong-notes joke in the Trio doesn’t come off, perhaps because the trumpets are so prominent; their hard attacks make us less sensitive to their pitch. The Vivace final is very neat, and the solo oboe shows he can chirp as sweetly as he sings.
The Overture to
is a welcome bonus. Although composed in 1779, its music maintains a
Sturm und Drang
character throughout its slow-fast-slow-fast structure—perhaps because it was the one serious opera among Haydn’s many comedies. This performance has more charm and vigor than Dorati’s cold, harsh reading in his complete recording of the opera.
An earlier (first?) installment of this series—the “Oxford” and the “Surprise”—was reviewed by James Reel in
29:1; he didn’t like that disc quite as much as I do this one, but he also felt that two-channel SACD is the best way to hear it.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 88 in G major, H 1 no 88 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
Written: circa 1787 ; Eszterhazá, Hungary
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