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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphonies - Vol. 33
Symphony No.25 in C major (1760?) [12:22]
Symphony No.42 in D major (1771) [28:26]
Symphony No.65 in A major (1771-1773?) [26:32]
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois
rec. Lauka Church,  Jyväskylä, Finland, 29 October–2 November 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570761 [67:21] 
Experience Classicsonline

In many ways the later volumes of the unfolding Naxos Haydn Symphony cycle have been some of the most attractive. The performances have generally been very good, sometimes exceptional, and the symphonies appearing as we near the end of the cycle have tended to be the unnamed pieces from Haydn's early-mid career as a symphonist.  They may be relatively unfamiliar, but this is not a function of their quality.  There is no such thing as a dull Haydn symphony.

Symphony No.25, in three movements, is the epitome of short and sweet.  The first movement begins with an adagio introduction – this is as close as we get to a slow movement – before a bustling bright C major allegro, spiced with minor modulations.  The minuet that follows is charming, with pizzicato strings underscoring languorous horns and winds in the trio.  The brief finale flies by merrily. 

Symphony No.65 brings the disc to a close.  It opens with three bright chords which become something of a motif as the first movement unfolds.  Gallois takes a somewhat relaxed view of the movement's “vivace” marking, but keeps the music flowing.  The second movement andante and the menuetto and trio are also a touch slow, which lends a little gravitas to their essential charm.  Sweet-toned horns launch the finale – calling from the distance at first before the movement really gets going. 

Symphony No.42 is, for me, the highlight of the disc, its witty, joyous first movement and bustling rondo finale framing an arch menuetto and trio and a singing andantino of exquisite beauty. 

The Finnish orchestra play with polish and energy under their music director, the French flautist-turned-conductor, Patrick Gallois.  They employ a harpsichord continuo – their only audible concession to period performance practice – in Symphony No.25, but dispense with it in the later symphonies – a good decision. Gallois projects the high spirits and good humour of the music.  He does not, however, quite manage to capture the sheer excitement of Haydn's scores in the way Thomas Fey does (see eg 1 and eg 2).  Fey has only recorded one of these three symphonies so far (No.65) and I am yet to hear that recording.  What is common to his Haydn symphony recordings though, and what is lacking here, are extremes of tempo, razor sharp articulation and high dynamic contrast.  After a steady diet of Fey and Harnoncourt, Gallois can seem a little bland, especially when he takes leisurely tempi.  In fairness, the general absence of dynamic contrast may in part be a function of the closely miked recording, which leaves little air around the notes.  I thought that my CD was skipping at one point in the finale of Symphony No.42 before I realised that I was hearing the sound of clicking oboe keys! 

Reservations aside, though, this is an enjoyable disc on its own merits.  At the price, it is certainly worth considering.

Tim Perry


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