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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Franz Josef HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Symphonies, Vol.26

Symphony No.41 in C (c.1770) [16’57]
Symphony No.58 in F (c.1775) [18’18]
Symphony No.59 in A "Fire" (c.1769) [21’50]
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
Recorded by Deutschland Radio in the Sendesaal DLR, Köln on June 24th, 2002 (Symphony No.41) and from April 8-9th 2002 (Symphonies Nos. 58 and 59)
NAXOS 8.557092 [57’05"]


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The Naxos set of Haydn symphonies has proved most rewarding. Without exception they are all lively, light, and most tastefully presented in terms of modern interpretation. This latest disc, Volume 26, is in keeping with the rest of the series and gives full value in pleasure. The most notable characteristics of the collection are the lightness and openness of the playing, mostly with orchestras which employ modern instruments, but utilise period idioms. Thus we have very quick outer movements, and not so slow inner movements, the whole contributing to a most refreshing and enlightening view of the immediate post-Baroque era. Not for nothing was Haydn called the ‘father of the symphony’.

Helmut Müller-Brühl and his Cologne orchestra are well versed in the performances of this period; indeed, the orchestra was founded in 1923 under the direction of Abendroth and Klemperer, and the present conductor succeeded in 1964, following study with Wolfgang Schneiderhan (remember his Beethoven Violin Concerto with Jochum?). The ensemble played with period instruments from 1976 to 1987 under the name of Capella Clementina.

The three symphonies here played are from the mid-period of Haydn’s output, when he was in the employ of Prince Nicolaus of Esterhazy. They are all of standard four movement construction, and the use of horns, trumpets and drums is in the forefront of the initiation of these instruments into the symphony orchestra. In all the pieces, the speeds are brisk, the playing light and the overall impression is one of delight. This series has been marked by such features, and at the price of each disc, I cannot recommend them too highly. The recordings are excellent, with pleasant ambience (as at a Palace chambre), the presentation good, and even a very readable and knowledgeable booklet with the disc. If you are looking for a set of Haydn symphonies (or even individual ones) I would strongly suggest that this series should come to the fore of your search.

John Portwood

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