Michael Haydn: Symphony in A, P6; Symphony in B flat, P9; Symphony in G, P16; Symphony in E flat, P26; Symphony in F, P32

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COMPOSERS: Michael Haydn
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony in A, P6; Symphony in B flat, P9; Symphony in G, P16; Symphony in E flat, P26; Symphony in F, P32
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
It is curious that CPE Bach’s eccentric and deeply personal symphonies have never become popular. They are worth studying, particularly in these well-considered recordings which also include an attractive symphony by WF Bach (whose D minor Symphony has always been loved).


It is also nice to welcome a whole disc of little-known Michael Haydn symphonies, of which the only one likely to be familiar to some readers is the G major work also listed as Mozart’s Symphony No. 37, K444 (on this CD minus the Mozartian slow introduction). These are bright pieces and the performances are delightful. The second work on this CD used to be known and published under Joseph’s name, but there is a Michael autograph settling the dispute, long since forgotten. The last two symphonies presented here were composed in 1788 and 1789, and from them one can see that Michael Haydn was working in some isolation in provincial Salzburg: no hint of Joseph Haydn’s epochal ‘Paris’ Symphonies, no traces of Mozart’s Linz or Prague Symphonies, the former owned by Leopold Mozart and thus easily available to Michael Haydn. (I wish that record companies would stop using the ancient Perger Catalogue and make use of Sherman/Thomas’s standard Chronological-Thematic Catalogue of Michael Haydn’s Works (New York, 1993).)


The beautiful Dittersdorf Symphonies on Ovid’s Metamorphoses have been available on Chandos since 1987 in performances by Cantilena, but, good though that version was, this present one is even better and contains much more music (many repeats now observed), making it a sensational bargain. These six works were composed in 1783 and first played in Vienna in 1786. Naturally they are not Haydn’s ‘Paris’ Symphonies or mature Mozart, but they are much better than their reputation, and some of the music is hauntingly beautiful (try the finale of No. 5, where ‘Lycian Peasants are turned into Frogs’). The performances by a Hungarian group are outstandingly fine; these are two discs to be treasured.