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.
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.
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
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.