> Franz Joseph Haydn - Symphony No.88 [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.88 in G Major (1787) – In Rehearsal
Philharmonia Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnanyi
recorded in the Royal Festival Hall, London, 1998, as one of the initial concerts given with Dohnanyi as Principal Conductor.
Video directed by Barrie Gavin.
ARTHAUS MUSIC 100 288 [59 minutes]


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This DVD contains a very nice idea – to watch a conductor work with an orchestra to develop a performance from the first run-through to the finished article, (or almost the finished article).

We are in Arthaus’s debt for allowing us to eavesdrop on this work, a privilege usually only open to the "Friends of the Philharmonia", who obviously have to be in London on the day to witness this work. On this DVD we can now watch these artists work together at our leisure.

On this DVD we have five chapters as follows:

    1. Introduction

    2. On rehearsing 1st movement

    3. Haydn, a neglected composer / 2nd movement

    4. Haydn as Conductor

    5. Nowadays Interpretation of Old Music / 4th Movement

The artistic balance of each chapter makes for fascinating watching/listening. We are given Dohnanyi’s ideas on each topic interspersed with passages of rehearsing the orchestra in preparation for a concert (in the Philharmonia’s Haydn/Bartók Series of concerts). This was the first Haydn Symphony these artists had played together, and the DVD is a fascinating glimpse of the first work they had done together on Haydn and with Christoph von Dohnanyi as Principal Conductor.

Dohnanyi’s style is to work with the orchestra, keeping chat to a minimum, and allowing the orchestra to play. However this does not mean a lack of discipline as some episodes show, with the offending passage being rehearsed over and over until it is in line with the conductor’s requirements and expectations. The discussions are illuminating, and at one point he stresses that he likes to let the musicians play so that he can get ideas from the players – genuinely a partnership.

Some of Dohnanyi’s views on "period performance" are illuminating, giving us an insight into a modern big band maestro’s approach to classical works using modern instruments.

The results speak for themselves and the players seem to be enjoying themselves. They become more and more animated as the rehearsal progresses, showing how they are warming to their new Conductor in Chief.

A fascinating disc, but I have two closely related criticisms about the issue. The disc only plays for a relatively short time, and so there would have been ample space to have the completed performance on the disc. With this addition, we would have been able to see the end result, which of course is what it is all about.

Sound quality and video production are both very good - no criticisms here.

John Phillips


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