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Joseph HAYDN (1842-1900)
Symphony No. 95 in C minor (1792)
Symphony No. 97 in C major (1792)
Symphony No. 98 in B flat major (1792)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Recorded at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland Feb. 1990/1992
ELATUS 2564 60438-2 [73.11]

This reissue is not the first disc to feature Concertgebouw performances of two of these Haydn symphonies. Accordingly one expects something distinctly different in interpretation to displace interest in the other earlier recordings. Colin Davis's first class 1970s performances for Philips have been highly respected as have those by Dorati for Decca and less so by Jochum for DG. In view of this any conductor considering revisiting the works in the 1990s needs to find a fresh approach with some level of individuality if his recordings are to be taken seriously.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt is comfortably at home in period works of Beethoven and Haydn and so I was looking forward to these performances. Harnoncourt had been sufficiently motivated to undertake a series of Haydn symphony recordings in the early nineties and this selection from the London symphonies is an interesting mix with Symphonies 95 and 98 being little heard in the concert hall.

The vigorous playing in the short Vivace movement of Symphony 97 certainly excites and the speeds are generally fast. He knocks 1'08" off the Andante of the Solti recording of No. 95, 1986 for instance, and thus provides some additional energy that faster tempi promote. But in Harnoncourt's reading, accuracy has been forfeited in the cause of style. A gushing rush, magnified accenting and wider dynamics do not always impress. I do not recognise here the level of originality nor novel eccentricity of interpretation we find displayed in his Beethoven 6th, so for me there is not a lot to set these performances above previous equally good recordings.

The forces of the Concertgebouw command worldwide respect and here are unlikely to disappoint. Of the two recording sessions used for this coupling the second in a slightly different acoustic provides better playing (No. 97). Signs of the thickening of chords and in one place an off-guard member of the brass section should have led to an additional 'take' yet hadn't.

Raymond J Walker

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