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Decca Phase 4
Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Symphonies - Volume 32
Symphony No. 9 in C major [12:09]
Symphony No. 10 in D major [13:55]
Symphony No. 11 in E flat major [17:28]
Symphony No. 12 in E major [16:40]
rec. Suolahti Concert Hall, Suolahti, Finland, 15-18 February
NAXOS 8.557771 [60:12]
The mammoth Naxos project to record the complete Haydn symphonies
must by now be in the final stage. It started as early as March
1988 with Barry Wordsworth conducting symphonies Nos. 82, 96
and 100. After that a number of conductors have been involved,
notably Nicholas Ward for the early works and for the rest
Helmut Müller-Brühl and Bela Drahos. Now we can add Patrick
Gallois with the wholly admirable Sinfonia Finlandia, whose
artistic director he has been since 2003.
This project is not without precedents. Max Goberman planned to record
all the symphonies with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, but
he died before he had time to finish the enterprise. Antal
Dorati on the other hand brought things to a successful close.
His Decca set is a worthy tribute to this versatile conductor,
even though there may be individual discs and sets that trump
his efforts. Then there is Adam Fischer’s cycle for Nimbus
and then Brilliant.
The issues in the Naxos series that I have heard have been
consistently good, middle-of-the-road readings. The general
standard has been high and therefore the issues can be confidently
recommended to those wanting to plug holes in their Haydn collection.
The present issue is something more than that. It is a well-known
fact that the general standard of Finnish orchestras is high.
The spate of talented conductors emanating from Suomi is to
no little degree a result of the first-class municipal orchestras,
some of them semi-professional, that can be found all over
the country. They provide rich opportunities for up-coming
talents to practise their craft. I used to get, twice a year,
an omnibus catalogue covering all the orchestral activities
in Finland; this made impressive reading.
On this disc we encounter Sinfonia Finlandia, or Jyväskylä Sinfonia
as it is known in Finland. It has its home in Jyväskylä in
central Finland, about 270 kilometres north of Helsinki. The
town has around 85,000 inhabitants and has a university with
seven faculties. In Scandinavia the town is best known for
the claims that the Nordic Santa Claus (Jultomten) comes from
there. The Sinfonia has 38 members, tours widely and collaborates
closely with the Jyväskylä Opera. Judging from this issue the
orchestra is a superb ensemble, homogenous and virtuosic. There
is an energy and rhythmic vitality in this recording that is
The music in itself is also enormously attractive. It may be early
Haydn, but early Haydn does not imply bad Haydn or immature
Haydn or less-than-original Haydn. Of the Haydn symphonies
I have collected through the years – by no means all of them
but still a respectable amount – there is not one single specimen
that lacks the stamp of inspiration. Of the present four only
one (No. 11) is in four movements and none of them exceeds
twenty minutes in playing time. That said, there is nothing
slight about them.
I can’t believe, to take an isolated example, that anyone listening
to the first movement of Symphony No. 9 would fail to be infected
by the vitality, the spring in the step and the forward thrust.
This is music with loads of energy. The Andante, as
played here, is certainly a young man’s movement and the Minuet also
dances youthfully – but with grace.
If there is one piece that can be seen as fairly run-of-the-mill it
is No. 10 but it also has its points. No. 11 opens unusually
with a slow movement, an Andante cantabile. In his late
symphonies Haydn quite often has a slow introduction to the
first movement but then follows the movement proper in a quick
In No. 12 Gallois admirably brings out the dynamic contrasts in a
dynamic reading. The central movement, marked Adagio, seems
to be personally significant for Haydn. It is elegiac and in
sharp contrast to anything else on the disc. It is also the
longest movement and with the surrounding two movements together
playing for little more than the Adagio one get a feeling
that this holds up a mirror to the composer’s innermost feelings.
With music-making of this order, recorded with clarity and atmosphere,
no one should hesitate to acquire this disc. Never mind that
none of the symphonies here has a nickname.
see also review by Brian Wilson
Haydn symphonies on Naxos: review page
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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