Haydn Symphonies Nos 6-8
These three ‘Times of Day’ symphonies – morning, noon and evening – appeared in 1761, the year when 29-year-old Haydn was first taken on by the Eszterházy family and were probably written to show off the scope of his compositional skills. These are inventive and beguiling scores, from the brief sunrise that opens Le midi to the Tempesta that closes Le soir, from the operatic scena-like give and take of solo violin and cello in the slow movement of Le midi to the comic double bass solos that figure in minuets in all three Symphonies. They suggest how easily the early symphony might have evolved as a decorative, concertante form, had Haydn not subsequently chosen to take it in a more integrated, developmental direction.
Founded by Sigiswald Kuijken all of 40 years ago, La Petite Band is among the longest established of our period performance ensembles, but these readings by a line-up of around 15 players – which seems to have been the size of Haydn’s orchestra in his first years at Eisenstadt – sound freshly thought out, with bright solo timbres, plenty of expressive affect, and lively yet unrushed tempos – except for the curiously sedate speeds adopted for the three finales. Presumably this is according to some theory of Kuijken’s as to what constituted an Allegro or Presto in the mid-18th century, though it does deprive those movements of a little of their wonted zip. The recorded sound nicely captures incisive foreground detail within a more spacious background ambience.