Haydn: Symphony No. 93; Symphony No. 94; Symphony No. 95; Symphony No. 96; Symphony No. 97; Symphony No. 98

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 93; Symphony No. 94; Symphony No. 95; Symphony No. 96; Symphony No. 97; Symphony No. 98
PERFORMER: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 7 64389 ADD mono
Those who argue that a modern symphony orchestra cannot provide the incisive attack and clarity of texture that late-18th-century music demands should hear these performances from the late Fifties. They demonstrate quite clearly that such matters have far less to do with the type of instruments used than with articulation and phrasing. Beecham’s Haydn, in fact, has lost none of its freshness; and its wit, sophistication and elegance are a constant delight.

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True, a few of his tempi seem rather laboured, but this allows for the kind of interpretive detail that a purely energetic performance cannot accommodate. Some of Beecham’s idiosyncratic touches are altogether inspired: the sudden increase in tempo for the closing pages of No. 93; or the changes in dynamics and even instrumentation in a few of the repeats of trios. Haydn would surely have approved, and these performances are arguably closer to the spirit of the music than are many would-be authentic interpretations.

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Even so, the coda of No. 98 is badly misjudged, and degenerates into a scramble. It is a pity, too, that no first movement repeats are observed. Misha Donat