Haydn 2032, Vol. 11 – Au goût parisien: Symphonies Nos 2, 24, 82 ‘The Bear’ and 87
Kammerorchester Basel/Giovanni Antonini
Alpha Classics ALPHA 688 80:27 mins
Haydn’s six ‘Paris’ symphonies Nos 82-87, commissioned in 1784 by the Masonic Concert de la Loge Olympique, were a huge success in the French capital: here was the wittiest and most brilliantly inventive symphonic music Haydn had yet written, played by a virtuoso orchestra that could boast 40 violins and ten basses.
On this new recording, featuring the first and last in the series of symphonies written for Paris, the Basel Chamber Orchestra has around a quarter that number, but only in the opening movement of Symphony No. 82, with its piercing trumpet parts, are the strings in any danger of being overpowered. Its finale’s hurdy-gurdy-like drone has earned the symphony its nickname of the ‘Bear’. While that work does without a real slow movement, the Symphony No. 87 has a profound Adagio with prominent parts – including a couple of mini-cadenzas – for flute, oboe and bassoon. The flute comes even more to the fore in the slow movement of No. 24, which may be the surviving portion from a lost concerto for that instrument.
The early Symphony No. 2 was first issued in Paris in 1764. Curiously, it contains no repeat from beginning to end, but elsewhere Giovanni Antonini observes every single repeat, even though some of them aren’t all that convincing. In the finale of the two ‘Paris’ symphonies (Nos 82 and 87), for instance, the second-half repeat comes as a real shock after the decisively conclusive ending the first time through. But Antonini’s characteristically lively performances – part of his ongoing complete Haydn symphonies series – afford much pleasure throughout.