Haydn: Symphonies Nos 1, 96 & 101

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1, 96 & 101l plus documentary ‘Sir Roger Norrington’
PERFORMER: Stuttgart Radio SO, SWR/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: 93.904 (NTSC system; Dolby 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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The Haydn symphonies are straight concert performances, given without commentary, and typical of Norrington’s work in Stuttgart. We hear No. 96 first, and it’s clear from the outset that there’s no vibrato in the playing, and Norrington sometimes appears to be doing little more than gently steering the orchestra.

But it’s certainly not characterless: a lot of work must have gone into making the music so lively and colourful in its phrasing and dynamic landscape, and it’s a shame that the DVD doesn’t include some rehearsal footage.

Andantes in both this Symphony and No. 101 are swift – something that Norrington does explain later, in the documentary – and it’s heart-warming to see smiles on the faces of the players, as well as the conductor, who beams benevolently from the podium, or in the case of the unconducted First Symphony, from a chair at the side.

The sound is as clean and detailed as the performances, and the camerawork lets us see a good amount of Norrington, although it isn’t immune to the modern habit of cutting rapidly between sections of the orchestra for no good reason.

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The documentary reveals Norrington’s relationship with the orchestra, plainly a happy one ten years into his principal conductorship. The beginning was quite turbulent, one of the players says, with different orchestral seating, and the change to the lean, transparent ‘Stuttgart sound’: something of which they are now proud. Martin Cotton