Symphony No. 15 in D; Symphony No. 35 in B flat; Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor ‘Farewell’; Scena di Berenice, Hob.XXIVA:10*
*Sandrine Piau (soprano); Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Alpha Classics ALPHA684 77:34 mins
This is the latest release in Giovanni Antonini’s project to record all of Haydn’s symphonies by the tercentenary of his birth in 2032. It centres on two great ‘farewell’ works: the fiercely concentrated Symphony No. 45, from which the players gradually depart at the end, and the emotionally charged Scena di Berenice, premiered together with the Symphony No. 104 towards the end of Haydn’s last London visit in 1795.
The booklet notes strain somewhat to link the other two symphonies: No. 35 is construed as a ‘welcome’ symphony for the return from abroad of Haydn’s princely employer, and No. 15 as the Farewell Symphony’s ‘cheerful little sister’. To add contemporary relevance to the feelings behind the symphonies, there is also a portfolio of modern ‘farewell’ photographs from the Magnum agency. It all makes for a rather ‘arty’ presentation.
But there is nothing ‘arty’ about the performances. Antonini’s standing among the most vital of current Haydn conductors is as evident here in the hushed intensity he brings to the remote Adagio of the Farewell Symphony as it is in the driving impetus with which he dispatches its turbulent opening movement, and he draws a remarkable range of expressive nuances and powerful shocks from the modest period forces of Il Giardino Armonico.
Add to this the full-toned Sandrine Piau in the mounting passion of Berenice as she bids farewell to her suicidal lover in a part ranging over more than two octaves, and one has a fine release indeed.