WORKS: Symphony No. 99; Symphony No. 102
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen
CATALOGUE NO: 434 077-2 DDD
This is the third volume from Christopher Hogwood and the excellent Academy of Ancient Music of what will be the complete Haydn symphonies on period instruments. The works date from the first years at the Esterházy court (1761-63), when Haydn was keen to impress his new patron and take advantage of the palace’s fine musicians – the symphonies are characterised by an extensive use of concertante soloists with all the wit and variety of the later Haydn. These are in effect chamber pieces, and Hogwood uses a small band, which allows for great sharpness of detail, enhanced by the clean string-playing (occasionally rather abrasive, with a double bass that may sound unwieldy to some) and the omission, perhaps controversially, of a harpsichord continuo. There is much to relish here: the brisk and light accounts of the relatively well-known trilogy Le matin, Le midi and Le soir; the ravishing Adagio cantabile for cello and strings of No. 13; and the brilliant virtuoso fanfares of the four horns in No. 72. In some ways these works mark a transition between the concerto grosso and the Classical symphony, but Hogwood’s set, equipped with scholarly but accessible notes, makes a powerful case for regarding them as self-sufficient – great works in their own right.
Frans Brüggen’s account of two of the late London symphonies, Nos. 99 and 102, with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, shows a warmer and more expansive kind of period performance, giving ample room for Haydn’s ambitious development sections. The playing is never less than elegant, if sometimes a little ponderous. William Humphreys-Jones