Haydn: Symphony No. 44 (Trauer); Symphony No. 51; Symphony No. 52

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Sony Vivarte
WORKS: Symphony No. 44 (Trauer); Symphony No. 51; Symphony No. 52
PERFORMER: Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: SK 48371 DDD
Another cycle of the Haydn symphonies! You never know, non-specialist orchestras might even start programming them from time to time as a result of all this exposure. In the meantime, these first two volumes from the Canadian period-instrument group Tafelmusik strike me as distinctly more promising than those already released by Messrs Hogwood, Fischer or Goodman (or, for that matter, the complete Dorati set).

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The orchestra is quite small (30 players), but capable of a big sound – the string tone is especially refined, the oboes mercifully sweet-toned, and Ab Koster copes manfully with the taxing horn solos in No. 51. There’s no keyboard continuo, which again is a relief after the ‘harpsichord continuo’ approach of some recordings.

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I do have my reservations about Bruno Weil, who could take a more active role in shaping the performances. In the C minor outbursts of No. 52 I miss the danger which Pinnock and Kuijken bring to this wild music. Also lacking is a sense of fun (in the playful finale of No. 42, for example), and the phrasing is sometimes rather clipped. Tempi are generally fast, but this never affects the strings’ superb articulation. The notes (by ‘Musicological and Artistic Consultant’, HC Robbins Landon) and the sound are both first rate. I await the next issues with interest. Stephen Maddock