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