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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
CD 1 [77:06]
Symphony No 88 in G major, Hob.I:88 (1787) [21:06]
Symphony No 98 in B flat major, Hob.I:98 (1792) [26:55]¹
Symphony No 101 in D major ‘Clock’, Hob.I:101 (1793/4) [28:47]¹
CD 2 [76:21]
Symphony No 95 in C minor, Hob.I:95 (1791) [24:28]
Symphony No 100 in D major ‘Military’, Hob.I:100 (1793/4) [25:44]
Symphony No 102 in B flat major ‘Miracle’, Hob.I:102 (1794) [25:58]
CD 3 [62:23]
Symphony No 92 in G major ‘Oxford’, Hob.I:92 (1789) [31:13]
Symphony No 104 in D major ‘London’, Hob.I:104 (1795) [31:15]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer¹
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 1960 (Nos. 98, 101) 1964 (Nos.88, 104), 1965 (Nos 100, 102), 1970 (No.95) and 1971 (No.92) 
EMI CLASSICS 2153002 [3 CDs: 77:06 + 76:21 + 62:23] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


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. 

We 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. 

No.88 is strong and sinewy especially the cellos and basses in the Largo with 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. 

Maybe 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. 

The 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. 

Of 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. 

To 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. 

Jonathan Woolf 


 

 
 


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