Haydn: Symphonies Nos 100 & 104

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 100 & 104; Sinfonia concertante for oboe, bassoon, violin, violoncello and orchestra, Hob 1:105
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio SO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 88697412332

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Period performance freaks had best steer clear of this one. The orchestras Haydn worked with on his two London visits in the 1790s can rarely have exceeded 50 players. Here we have the sound of a large modern orchestra recorded live in a resonant acoustic and generating, in some of Haydn’s more energetic development sections, the momentum of a juggernaut.

Consequently, the recorded balance of the Sinfonia Concertante has had to be faked, with the orchestra pushed into middle distance and the four soloists sounding almost in one’s refulgent lap. They prove a lively and characterful bunch however, even if the violinist is given to insinuating extra cadenzas at the drop of a hat.

Nothing Mariss Jansons does is unconsidered, of course, and while one might wish for crisper articulation at the opening of the Sinfonia Concertante, he does on the whole choose convincing tempos for the symphonies and contrive to keep rhythms buoyant.

Helped by Haydn’s transparent scoring, Symphony No. 100 comes off best here. The hesitations he adds to the trio of No. 104, however, become tiresome on repetition, while the end of the Finale is almost frightening in its force.

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Those who want modern- orchestra Haydn handled with clarity had better stick to the Concertgebouw-Colin Davis CDs of the London Symphonies on Philips. Bayan Northcott