In the world of Haydn Symphonies on LP in London, there was first Beecham and the RPO and then a sequence
from Klemperer and the Philharmonia. Both these sets have been
returned to the catalogues of late. Of course this is a gross
simplification and there were other performances, but these two
old lions tended to dominate British perceptions and catalogues
well into the 1960s and early 1970s by which time they were being
well overtaken by new trends in performance.
can safely leave such trends alone when it comes to this three
CD set of eight symphonies. The symphonies were recorded between
1960 and 1971. The overview must of course note the relatively
large string sections and the familiar Klemperer ear for wind
detailing. As is the case with Beecham’s recordings speeds
can now sound, given the recent developments in speed and
articulation, somewhat portly. This specifically relates to
the Minuets. Otherwise there is much to admire.
is strong and sinewy especially the cellos and basses in the
the very forward wind statements elegantly tapered – some
may say too much so. True, the Minuet is slow-ish but
the Ländler has plenty of charm and typical Klemperer
sonority. Linear continuity ensures that it keeps on track.
It’s followed in this sequence by No. 98 with its gravely
variegated Adagio introduction which manages, in Klemperer’s
hands, to avoid the portentous. The slow movement is lucidly
done with plenty of moulded warmth. The first disc closes
with the Clock which is once again subject to Klemperer’s
particular balancing acts – or those in conjunction with his
balance engineer Harold Davidson; Walter Legge was the producer.
The slow movement here does sound a trudge and the Minuet
is too deliberate even in the context of the corpus of symphonies.
It’s probably one of the weakest performances in the set and
interestingly enough it was the first to be recorded.
things settled down a little over the ensuing sessions. The second
disc opens with a performance from a decade later, that of No.95.
Imposing and big boned, with a broadly sculpted Adagio
introduction sporting well blended and balanced horns, this is
an altogether better recording. And for Klemps the Minuet
is positively frisky – though of course this is a relative term.
A similar Janissary strength imbues the Military although
for my tastes the finale is too po-faced. It is nevertheless,
I concede, of a piece with the performance as a whole which is
determined, powerful and resolutely un-humorous. We finish disc
two with a tersely engaging performance of 102 with a noble slow
movement, contrapuntal violins to the fore and winds once again
unmissable. Yes, the Minuet takes ‘weighty’ to the foothills
of doughty. All right it’s positively devoid of wit. Still if
you relish a determinist Minuet with no concessions even to a
creased half smile then Klemps is your man.
final disc disgorges the Oxford which opens in an improbably romanticised fashion. The
winds pipe finely in the Minuet (I hardly need to labour
its slowness by now) and attractively. The London is perhaps even better. The wind chording here is tremendously
vital and precise and once again Klemperer manages to distil
considerable power into the symphony’s Adagio introduction.
The slow movement itself is notably well detailed and cantilevered
and this performance, made in 1964, shows the partnership
of conductor and orchestra at something like its best.
grace and refinement there are perhaps fewer traces, but one wouldn’t
necessarily seek them in a Klemperer performance, certainly of
Haydn. Where Beecham was a Cavalier, Klemperer was a Roundhead
in this kind of thing. His is a determinist, utterly symphonic
set of performances if one can put it that way, one which took
account of textual editorialising in a way that Beecham did not;
the Robbins Landon editions were available to both and Klemperer
did institute some changes.
that extent though, the symphonies are over-balanced towards
the serioso. Admirers of the conductor will be grateful
to have the set at such a reasonable price and it’s to them
that this box is ideally suited.