WORKS: Symphony No. 21; Symphony No. 22; Symphony No. 23; Symphony No. 24; Symphony No. 25; Symphony No. 26; Symphony No. 27; Symphony No. 28; Symphony No. 29; Symphony No. 30; Symphony No. 31; Symphony No. 32; Symphony No. 33; Symphony No. 34; Symphony No. 35;
PERFORMER: Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra/Adam Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5683-87
Symphonies Nos 21-39 date from a crucial period at the outset of Haydn’s career, a period that begins in the late 1750s with some of his earliest symphonies (composed for Count Morzin) and concludes in the late 1760s, when Haydn, now Kapellmeister for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, embarked on the first dramatic experiments of his Sturm und Drang phase.
This volume (the last of Fischer’s eight to appear) includes several of Haydn’s best-known earlier symphonies, notably No. 22, The Philosopher, with its dark, tangy sonorities (the result of an inspired pairing of horns and cors anglais), and No. 31, Hornsignal, famed for its brash hunting calls and a concertante finale of dashing cameo solos. As always with Haydn, other felicities abound – try the youthful No. 27, for irresistible joie de vivre, or No. 26, Lamentatione, and No. 39, two impassioned, fiercely exciting, minor-key harbingers of Sturm und Drang.
Fischer’s modern-instrument performances are lively and stylish, with crisp phrasing and brisk, flowing tempi. Yet he also makes Haydn, a radical innovator, sound too neat and decorous at times. What’s really indefensible is his frequent failure to observe repeats, a decision that shows scant respect for Haydn’s astute sense of form. Nevertheless, these are among the most attractive budget-priced recordings, sharper than Dorati (Decca), more characterful than Ward (Naxos). For benchmarks, I remain committed to period-instrument sets; to Kuijken’s electrifying No. 26, to Pinnock’s scintillating versions of Nos 35, 38 and 39, to Hogwood, coolly expansive, for the rest – though just occasionally Fischer’s zest perhaps gives him the edge (Nos 27, 30 and 34). Graham Lock