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Haydn: Symphonies 97 & 98 / Solti, London Philharmonic


Release Date: 12/17/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 433396   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 50 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Everyone knows what electricity Solti can generate. But when it comes to Haydn, he seems to smile benignly while still ensuring that the orchestral players are sitting on the edges of their seats.

Sir Georg Solti celebrates his eightieth birthday with some new Haydn recordings, and how better could he manage it? Only perhaps with Schubert: (his memorably sunny VP0 recording of the Great C major Symphony is currently being reissued on Decca's Ovation label—a real bargain). I don't need to remind GRAMOPHONE readers that Sir Georg made his international reputation as a Wagnerian, nor that his Decca recording of the Ring is still the most thrilling version in the catalogue; and anyone who has heard this remarkable
Read more Hungarian musician conduct at a live concert will know what a high voltage of electricity he can generate. But when it comes to Haydn and Schubert, he seems to relax and smile benignly while still ensuring that the orchestral players are sitting on the edges of their seats, metaphorically rising to their toes every now and then; but not to make big bangs—rather to produce an extra degree of finesse, an added crispness of articulation and attack, or refined elegance of phrase. So it is here, and especially in No. 98 in B flat, the more serious minded of these two great symphonies, but yet one which has a finale which almost surpasses the composer's Joke Quartet in its series of charming episodes which interrupt the closing section: first the leader tries, then the flutes; the full strings reassert the forward thrust—then the leader tries again. Finally there is a total change of mood, the rhythm jollifies, almost becomes a Land ler, and a dainty interjection from the harpsichord makes way for the brief closing flourish. Solti manages all this deliciously, after setting just the right bubbling forward momentum for the gay main idea, with the LPO violins scintillating in their unforced brilliance. The work opens in a quite different mood, much more restrained, and the cultivated first movement shows the mature Haydn at his most assured and inspired, with the secondary material growing naturally out of the music's onward flow (and perfectly contrasted by Solti). The Adagio slow movement is based on God save the King—which Haydn greatly admired (as did Beethoven), but his is not a literal quotation but a solemnly gracious paraphrase of that famous tune. Haydn's variations are marvellous and most beautifully paced on this occasion, so that the vigorous following Minuet (played at a believable tempo, not the one-in-abar nonsense favoured by some exponents of the 'authentic' school) and the debonair trio, prepare the listener for the release of the final, joyous Presto.

I'd like to say that No. 97 is equally successful, but it isn't—quite. The playing is as spirited, polished and alive as ever, and it is a reading that one adapts to with familiarity, but first impressions are usually right for me and they suggest that Solti is here pressing on just a fraction too insistently throughout. The music-making is not over-tense, so much as very fleet and brisk. When the delectable second subject arrives in the first movement, it is neatly presented in pastel colouring, then the violins scamper for all they are worth, and although they do it with immaculate ensemble, one feels the need for just a little more relaxation; though throughout there is some delightful, glowing woodwind detail of the kind that the LPO has made famous in their many Haydn recordings over the years. The slow movement is marked Adagio ma non troppo and Solti takes this literally, but again I feel he presses on a bit too much (even though the playing is wonderfully precise), especially when he moves away from the main theme for the first time. The Minuet, however, is superbly buoyant, swinging along, with the timpani enjoying their contribution and not overdoing it; the Trio is piquant in colouring, without being made to sound quaint. The finale (Presto assai) is not too rushed, but Solti's forceful accenting in tuttis (as in the climax of the slow movement) brings a hint of gruffness. But perhaps that is an essential part of Solti's special contribution to this repertoire, for there is no question about the distinct individuality of these performances.

The recordings, made at Walthamstow, and Watford Town Hall respectively, seem perfect for each work; the second is Decca's very best—just listen to the transparency of the violin texture when gently underlined by either flute or bassoon. But of course this is only possible because Solti's balancing is so deft.

-- Gramophone [10/1992]
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 97 in C major, H 1 no 97 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1792; London, England 
Date of Recording: 10/1989 
Venue:  Walthamstow Town Hall, London 
Length: 22 Minutes 54 Secs. 
2. Symphony no 98 in B flat major, H 1 no 98 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1792; London, England 
Date of Recording: 02/1991 
Venue:  Watford Town Hall, London 
Length: 26 Minutes 32 Secs. 

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