Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: Nos. 6, 7, 8
David Rabinovich, cond; Apollo Ens
CENTAUR CRC 3173 (71:29)
"The Apollo Ensemble is a period-instrument chamber orchestra; its 2/2/1/1/1 string complement (with pairs of flutes, oboes, and horns) matches that of the Esterházy forces for which these symphonies were written. The many solo passages in “Le Matin,” “Le Midi,” and “Le Soir” are beautifully handled. The performances (with all repeats except
minuets) are smooth and a bit soft, although most tempos match those in other recordings.
could benefit from sharper attacks and a more insistent forward thrust,
from deeper concentration.
We tend to think of absolute dates as bar lines in the continuum of musical history: Handel’s death in 1759 serves as a convenient period to the Baroque era, and Haydn’s 1761 hiring by Prince Esterházy (and the simultaneous writing of these three symphonies) as the birth of the Classical. Never mind that instrumental virtuosity had already become primary in Mannheim and in Paris, or that Johann Stamitz died before Handel. These thoughts are induced by these performances, which have a curiously Baroque aura about them, reminding us that the changing of the guard was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Most performances have adopted the crisp, cool, lightweight style of the new era and have stressed the virtuosity of the solo parts—which is certainly what Haydn intended, to ingratiate himself with his new musicians. Here the well-played solos settle nicely into the overall fabric rather than trumpeting their virtuosity. It is difficult to pin down the reasons for the Baroque feeling: It may have to do with the sounds of these particular instruments, although the A = 430 Hz pitch is not especially low for period practice. It may even be related to the recorded sound, in a surprisingly reverberant church in Deventer, the Netherlands.
FANFARE: James H. North
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