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Haydn: London Symphonies 103 & 104 / Norrington, London


Release Date: 05/31/2007 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 55002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Roger Norrington brings a questing, challenging, sometimes subversive spirit to all the music he performs. His uncompromising, intensely dramatic readings have a rare sense of intellectual and physical exhilaration.

Like Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Roger Norrington brings a questing, challenging, sometimes subversive spirit to all the music he performs. His first recorded foray into Haydn is as arresting as his Mozart and Beethoven symphonies: readings that marry subtle, pungent detail, sheer physical excitement (Haydn's flamboyant contrasts of texture and dynamics played for all they are worth) and a shrewd long-range control of rhythmic and harmonic tensions. The outer movements of the Drumroll are as vital and powerful as
Read more I have heard them, though if wit and urbanity are your priorities in Haydn you will have to look elsewhere. Characteristically, Norrington makes the maximum dramatic impact with the opening timpani roll in No. 103; and the Allegro con spirito is far less genial and gamesome than in many other performances: the central development is unusually tough and imposing, the pauses charged with tense expectancy (Norrington's long operatic experience, as always, paying dividends), and the coda blazes with hard-won exultation, the full impact of the rasping period brass only now unleashed. The finale, one of Haydn's most breathtaking compositional feats, receives a taut, explosive reading, conceived in a single dramatic sweep. Needless to say, Norrington divides his first and second violins left and right, allowing the symphony's many antiphonal exchanges to make their full effect.

The fierce tempo in the finale of the Drumroll is thrillingly justified by Norrington's rhythmic command, textural clarity (contrapuntal detail sharply etched) and the brilliant, precisely articulated playing of his orchestra. But even after several hearings I've yet to be completely convinced by the uncommonly brisk reading of the second movement. Haydn, it's true, qualified his Andante with piu tosto Allegretto; but Norrington's tempo seems to me to underestimate the gravity in that bare initial C minor theme (played more smoothly, more 'on the string' than usual), the grandeur of the two tutti variations (from 5'19''), which sound distinctly frenzied here, and the poetry of the coda (6'59'' ff).

The Andante is also the problem for me in an otherwise electrifying performance of the London. Norrington's timing is 6'40'', by some way the fastest I know on disc; and his often edgy, brittle and, in the minore central section, frantic reading eschews breadth, repose and reflectiveness, at least until the coda, where the tempo eases appreciably. On the rival period version from Philips, Bruggen, at a more considered 8'05'', brings altogether more poise and lyrical tenderness to this movement. Still, as ever, Norrington's view forces you to reconsider your preconceptions about this familiar music. In general Bruggen gives a warmer reading of the outer movements than Norrington, more traditional if you like, with more moulded, espressivo phrasing; and his wind players strike me as a shade more individually characterful than those of the London Classical Players—though the bassoons, so important in this symphony, are often too faint. But in the opening Allegro Bruggen weakens the closing stages of the development by his tempo fluctuations and final unmarked diminuendo; Norrington, typically, is magnificent throughout this development, progressively tautening the rhythmic pulse and driving inexorably to a searing climax (6'50'' ff).

Though at times I shall want to hear more affectionate, sociable performances of these symphonies, Norrington's uncompromising, intensely dramatic readings have at their best a rare sense of intellectual and physical exhilaration. EMI's recording, made in Abbey Road's No. 1 Studio, is clean, natural and immediate, with just the right degree of resonance, though for some reason the hard-stick period timpani, so incisive elsewhere, are not always ideally defined in the first movement of the Drumroll.

-- Richard Wigmore, Gramophone [7/1994]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 103 in E flat major, H 1 no 103 "Drumroll" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; London, England 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 28 Minutes 21 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 104 in D major, H 1 no 104 "London" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Roger Norrington
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Classical Players
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; London, England 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 26 Minutes 41 Secs. 

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