now reached volume thirty in Naxos’s budget price Haydn
symphonic series. Collectors will know that other bands
have made substantial contributions and these include the
Cologne Chamber Orchestra under Helmut Müller-Brühl, the
Swedish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Béla Drahos and
Sinfonia Finlandia directed by Patrick Gallois.
Camerata, which Kevin Mallon has directed on disc before,
of course, is a modern instrument group but one that is
versed in historically informed practice. I always find
that a pompous mouthful to say, let alone write, but it
has the virtue of being true.
at this price bracket, and even in the earlier symphonies,
there are competitors. If you want a budget price box doubtless
you will have considered Adam Fischer’s set of the complete
symphonies with the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, ex-Nimbus
and now in a Brilliant box set. You’ll need to buy the
box as the volumes are not, unlike Naxos’s, availably singly
but the Brilliant price is exceptionally tempting. But
that would be to overlook differences in interpretation
and approach to these early symphonies and differences
there certainly are.
The Toronto/Mallon performances
of all four are distinguished by an airy clarity of textures
and lightness of articulation. Bowing is never heavy or
tensile; textures are never quasi-Romantic. The results
are consistently enjoyable.
string sections are lissom and light on their feet, horns
discreet but characterful. In the opening Allegro of the
A major Fischer is more rococo than Mallon with a greater
quotient of the old espressivo, and a greater masculinity
and vigour. The subtly argued rhythm that underpins the
andante brings with it a lighter wit in Mallon’s hands
however, against which Fischer can sound a touch heavy – these
are respective qualities that recur throughout their performances.
The smaller string body of Mallon’s band means that the
finale is full of textual clarity and Fischer’s full of
the D major Fischer sounds rather more Beechamesque with
a lyricism that is almost French, almost, in fact, taking
Haydn close to Grétry (specifically Zémire et Azor). Free flowing and fleeter,
Mallon is deft if not quite so obviously warm, though once
more his Minuet scores by virtue of the ease and lightness
of his rhythmic control. Fischer chugs but Mallon flies
in the opening of No.16. If I find Fischer somewhat more
characterful in this three-movement work it’s the case
that Mallon remains true to deftness and light articulation. The
aria-like beauty of the slow movement of the F major is
perhaps more gravely expressed by Fischer though Mallon’s
warmth is always evident.
the end these are two differing philosophies, one attuned
more to the historically informed, the other to the greater
romantic weight of the modern chamber or symphony orchestra.
Choice will depend as much on one’s affiliations in this
respect as to anything else. Certainly there are few complaints
with the recording. I’ve in the past found this location
leads to a certain recession of sound and a lack of heft
in the tuttis but things seem to be much better here.