Haydn: Symphony No. 26 in D minor (Lamentatione); Symphony No. 42 in D; Symphony No. 43 in E flat (Mercury); Symphony No. 44 in E minor (Trauer); Symphony No. 48 in C (Maria Theresia); Symphony No. 49 in F minor (La passione)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
WORKS: Symphony No. 26 in D minor (Lamentatione); Symphony No. 42 in D; Symphony No. 43 in E flat (Mercury); Symphony No. 44 in E minor (Trauer); Symphony No. 48 in C (Maria Theresia); Symphony No. 49 in F minor (La passione)
PERFORMER: Academy of Ancient Music/ Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 440 222-2 DDD
I dare say Haydn aficionados will have decided by now which of these rival symphony cycles (both on period instruments) is the more to their liking. Personally I favour Hogwood/AAM, though I must admit their latest volume is somewhat lacklustre.

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Haydn’s ‘Sturm und Drang’ period (c1766-72) produced several of his more dramatic, turbulent symphonies, including Nos 26 (‘Lamentation’), 44 (‘Mourning’) and 49 (‘Passion’). These works have inspired some thrilling recordings in recent years, notably by Trevor Pinnock (with the English Concert on Archiv) and Derek Solomons (directing L’Estro Armonico on Sony), both of whom marry fire with finesse. In comparison, the Academy of Ancient Music players sound low on vivacity – their rhythms lack buoyancy, their articulation lacks bite. There is a ‘glazed’ quality to their performances, as if the pressure of recording so many symphonies – with so little time to become totally au fait with them – is taking its toll. At least the smart packaging and extensive notes maintain previous high standards.

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Roy Goodman and the Hanover Band offer typically brisk, feisty readings of the last three Paris Symphonies (from 1785-6), though I prefer the more celebratory feel of Sigiswald Kuijken’s superb versions with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for Virgin Veritas. A criticism levelled at earlier discs in the Goodman cycle is that he allocates too prominent a role to the harpsichord – which arguably shouldn’t be there at all. Certainly I found its silvery chatter a distraction. If Haydn did use a harpsichord, he would surely have deployed it more discreetly than Goodman does here. Graham Lock