Haydn: Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor (Farewell); Symphony No. 46 in B; Symphony No. 47 in G

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor (Farewell); Symphony No. 46 in B; Symphony No. 47 in G
PERFORMER: Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53986 DDD
Composed in Eszterhaza, away from the centre stages of Europe, these six symphonies date from c 1772-3, the infant years of Beethoven. Here is invigorating, inspired, perennially original music, still capable of taking one’s breath away. The character of Haydn — master symphonist, genius of surprise and silence, of phrasing and cadence, a man variously grand, melancholic, temperamental, witty and playful – is stamped everywhere. The bold invention of these works, their compositional intricacy, tonal adventures, easy, fresh polyphony and arresting orchestration (notably woodwind and horns), make them a unique historical experience. In his notes, HC Robbins Landon, musicological and artistic consultant to this Haydn project, rightly calls No. 45 (the Farewell) ‘one of the most noble, tragic symphonies of its century’. And he draws interesting attention to the Sturm undDrang ‘nervous, fiery writing, pungent harmonies and slightly sinister overtones’ of Nos. 46 and 47. Mozart admired the latter. Did Beethoven perhaps know the former, with the unsettling minuet interpolation of its finale? Ceremonial C major Haydn informs No. 50, written in honour of Maria Theresa. Incidental music for theatre may have been the origin of Nos. 64 and 65.

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All are played on period instruments (or reconstructions) pitched to concert A=430, without keyboard continue (Robbins Landon’s recommendation nearly 40 years ago, rarely observed however). They are vibrantly alert to 18th-century rhythmic practice (the double-dotted introduction of No. 50, for example).

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Tafelmusik under Bruno Weil offers an account of these trail-blazing masterworks that’s as near definitive as you can get — though you’ll find their minuet da capos to be at variance with the Academy of Ancient Music/Hogwood model. Ates Orga