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Haydn: Symphonies no 60, 70 & 90 / Rattle, Birmingham SO


Release Date: 04/03/2001 
Label:  Emi Classics Special Import Catalog #: 54297   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

These joyous, humane readings bear witness to an exceptionally fresh, penetrating musical vision.

Simon Rattle's first recorded reconnaissance into eighteenth-century symphonic repertoire imaginatively juxtaposes two of Haydn's most eccentrically original works from the 1770s with the first of the trilogy he composed in 1788 for the Parisian Concert de la Loge Olympique. The earliest symphony here, the six-movement No. 60, began life as incidental music to a French farce, Le distrait (''The absent-minded man''). And with a born opera conductor's ear for colour and dramatic timing Rattle evidently relishes the music's caprice, drolerie and moments of slapstick humour—he even adds an unwritten moment of his own just
Read more before the finale's hilarious re-tuning incident (0'08''). But elsewhere his uncommonly vivid characterization goes hand in hand with a scrupulous regard for Haydn's markings—as in his cunningly judged perdendosi (''dying away'') in the opening movement (1'50''ff), where the music distractedly dwells on a single repeated note; or in the bucolic lurch of the E minor theme in the Andante (based on an old French drinking song, 2'07'') with its stabbing sforzandos and raucous horn fanfares. But in his pointing of the bizarre and overtly theatrical features of the score Rattle never neglects the work's more serious, symphonic aspects. The first movement, for instance, is lithe and purposeful, with a driving (though never over-driven) rhythmic impetus and a powerful control of the music's larger structure; and the Adagio fifth movement, with its beautiful plainsong melody, is done with a rare finesse and grace of line. And though the violins' scrubbing semiquavers in the Presto fourth movement sound a bit over-frantic, lacking in definition (the articulation of period instruments would help here), it's hard not to capitulate to the sweep and ferocious energy of Rattle's performance.

Symphony No. 70, a favourite in Rattle's concert programmes, is curious in that both the Andante and the finale are in the tonic minor; and it is these movements, rather than the brisk and breezy opening Vivace, that carry the work's highest specific gravity. Rattle rightly allows the Andante plenty of time to breathe, shaping both the doleful initial theme and the tender alternating D major melody with a vocal eloquence, while the final appearance of the opening theme (from 5'55'') has a bleak, withdrawn quality (wonderful pianissimo playing here) unmatched in any other performance I've heard. A pity, though, that Rattle omits the second-half repeats in the D major sections. The finale's big fugal centrepiece is thrillingly built, combining a terrific rhythmic impetus with an exemplary lucidity of texture; and though I usually prefer classical trios taken at the same speed as their minuets, the slower tempo for the trio here and the deliberate heaviness in the string accompaniment lend the music a haunting, faintly forlorn air.

The last work on the disc, No. 90, receives an aptly big, bold performance, with Rattle and his orchestra savouring Haydn's exuberant and inventive scoring—though I wish they'd made even more of the pealing C alto horns. At times I registered textural subtleties that had eluded me before, such as the bassoons' underpinning of the whole orchestra, two octaves below the cellos, in the first movement's recapitulation (from 5'13''). To both outer movements Rattle brings his customary verve and sharpness of local characterization allied to a strong feeling for the long-range drama of sonata forms. In the finale I was initially surprised that, for the only time on this disc, he opts to make the second repeat: but Rattle slyly ensures that Haydn's outrageous deceit at the start of the coda is at least as funny second time round. In Beckmesserish mood one might object to the occasional embellishments added by the flute and oboe in the first two movements and the trio of the minuet; and, more seriously, the use of solo violin with solo cello in the Andante (from 5'36'') where (as elsewhere in his symphonies) Haydn deliberately sets a high-lying solo cello part against the full orchestral strings.

Purists may find even a slimmed-down CBSO too ample-toned and string-biased for this music, and object that Rattle's shading and shaping, notably in slow movements, go far beyond anything that conductorless eighteenth-century orchestras could have achieved. Well, they have a point; and they're unlikely to be lured away from the leaner, more direct period-instrument cycles by Hogwood and Goodman. But whatever Haydn himself may have expected, Rattle never for a moment strikes my late-twentieth-century ears as over-sophisticated; and time and again these joyous, humane readings, gamely, often brilliantly, executed by the CBSO and beautifully recorded, bear witness to an exceptionally fresh, penetrating musical vision. I hope Rattle and his orchestra will continue to give us recordings of Haydn symphonies as long as performances on modern instruments remain legal.

-- Richard Wigmore, Gramophone [4/1992]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 60 in C major, H 1 no 60 "Il distratto" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1774; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Venue:  Arts Center, University of Warwick 
Length: 23 Minutes 25 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 70 in D major, H 1 no 70 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778-1779; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Venue:  Arts Center, University of Warwick 
Length: 16 Minutes 48 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 90 in C major, H 1 no 90 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1990 
Venue:  Arts Center, University of Warwick 
Length: 26 Minutes 4 Secs. 

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