WORKS: Symphony No. 41; Symphony No. 42; Symphony No. 43; Symphony No. 44; Symphony No. 45; Symphony No. 46; Symphony No. 47; Symphony No. 48; Symphony No. 49; Symphony No. 50; Symphony No. 51; Symphony No. 52
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Frans Brüggen
CATALOGUE NO: 462 117-2
These astonishingly original and turbulent symphonies composed in the late 1760s and early 1770s marked the emergence of Haydn’s creative genius in all its splendour. Characteristically, no fewer than half a dozen of them are in minor keys. They include, beside the famous Farewell (No. 45), the austere Lamentatione Symphony No. 26, the Trauer (or ‘Mourning’) No. 44, with its bleakly canonic minuet; the agitated No. 39 in G minor, whose halting opening phrases seem to convey almost inexpressible grief; and the even darker Passione No. 49, which actually has all its movements in the same key of F minor.
Frans Brüggen brings out the brooding quality, the passion and the occasional wonderful strokes of humour of this music with great sympathy. His obvious rival is Trevor Pinnock, and choice between them is not easy. Perhaps Brüggen is generally warmer and more Romantic, though he can certainly generate tension where needed. He is also much funnier in the ‘limping’ minuet of No. 58, and more sombre in the concluding minuet of the Lamentatione. While Pinnock directs from the harpsichord, Brüggen does without keyboard continuo altogether (whether Haydn expected the harpsichord to fill in some of his lean textures is an open question: there is plenty of evidence in his string quartets and piano trios of his predilection for two-part writing); and whereas Pinnock has first and second violins spatially separated, Brüggen keeps them bunched together – though this again is a question of taste. Certainly, either set will give a great deal of pleasure. Misha Donat