If, like me, you hadn’t thought of Mariss Jansons as a
don’t allow yourself to be deterred from this DVD. He has previously recorded
Symphonies Nos. 100, 104 and ‘105’ for Sony - another live performance
with the Bavarian Radio Choir and Orchestra - the ‘Surprise’ Symphony,
coupled with Mozart and Berlioz for Medici DVD (see review
and a 5-CD set of cello concertos, including the two by Haydn, with Truls Mørk.
That Medici DVD elicited an appreciative review from John Phillips and I’m
happy to report that I’m just as delighted with the new recording.
Only absolutists for the cause of period instruments or those who would have
preferred two choral works need to be cautious; everyone else will find here
a thoroughly enjoyable performance of one of Haydn’s late, great Mass settings,
, with two equally enjoyable bonuses in the substantial
form of Symphony No.88 and the shorter Sinfonia in D. Even those who insist on ‘authentic’ performances
may well find themselves surprised to hear the extent to which Jansons has taken
on board many period-instrument practices - not quite to the extent of Nikolaus
Harnoncourt’s Beethoven recordings with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe,
perhaps, but this is certainly not big-band Haydn.
The short Sinfonia
which opens the programme establishes those credentials
in a convincing manner. It’s attractive music which Haydn later recycled
and it makes a good curtain-raiser here.
My benchmark for Symphony No.88 is the classic Furtwängler version which
I recommended in my February 2010 Download
. Like Beecham, Furtwängler made his recording long before authenticity
became the watchword, but, also like Beecham, I for one am willingly taken along
by his view of Haydn. It comes in very acceptable mono sound, coupled with an
equally superb performance of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony on a mid-price
DG download (474 9882) from passionato, or on CD from Archipel (ARPCD0122). I
much prefer it to Simon Rattle’s recent version, despite the golden opinions
which the latter has won. Please note that the recent revamp of the Passionato
website may mean that the URL which I gave in the Roundup may not work.
My other benchmark version of the symphony, with the Berlin Philharmonic and
Eugen Jochum, is available only as part of a bonus extra in his DG budget-price
4-CD set of the ‘London’ symphonies, but it can be downloaded separately
and reasonably economically from iTunes and Amazon. Again, Jochum was recorded
in the 1960s, before the most recent scholarship, but his version really sings.
A more recent recording well worth throwing into the comparison is the Naxos
with Barry Wordsworth, which I reviewed in the Download Roundup for July,
, a fine bargain. Jansons offers a performance superior to the Naxos
and comparable with my favourite Jochum and Furtwängler versions; if he
doesn’t quite take me with him into the music as much as they do - a tall
order - he has the advantage of that modern research which reputedly takes us
closer to what would have been heard by Haydn’s contemporaries. You are
never under the illusion of hearing period instruments but nothing is over-large
or heavy; just listen to the delicacy and dancing joy of the moment immediately
after the adagio
introduction of the first movement gives way to allegro
For the Harmoniemesse
or ‘wind-band’ Mass, so called because
of the prominence of the wind instruments, there are three very good performances
for comparison: Richard Hickox, either coupled with the Salve Regina
E on Chandos CHAN0612 or as part of his complete set of the Haydn Masses on CHAN0734(8);
John Eliot Gardiner on a 2-CD Philips set with the Schöpfungsmesse
Creation Mass (unavailable? except as a download from passionato) and, at budget
price, David Hill with the Winchester Cathedral Choir on Hyperion Helios (CDH55208).
All of these have their distinctive claims, especially the Winchester version,
which combines traditional choristers with David Hill’s earlier experiences
directing the music of the Roman liturgy at Westminster Cathedral.
I return most often to the Gardiner who, I think, just has the edge on the others,
including the new DVD, but I shall turn to Jansons when I wish to combine listening
satisfaction with the visual experience. The soloists on the Hickox and Gardiner
are better known than those who perform for Jansons, but none of them is at all
disappointing. The chorus is rather large, considering that the orchestra has
been somewhat scaled down for this concert, but the balance between the two is
well maintained. If you don’t yet know this work, but have heard the ‘Nelson’ Mass,
you will probably be pleasantly surprised to discover the Harmoniemesse
be at least the equal of that more famous work. Am I the only person to hear
a fascinating echo of the Countess’s regretful aria Dove sono?
in the Agnus Dei
? What begins with that wistful
echo, however, is turned by Haydn into a gloriously positive conclusion. In any
event, we now have four recordings worthy of allowing you to hear not just that
wonderful ending, but the whole work. The applause from the otherwise silent
audience is well deserved.
Whether you will want the DVD of the Jansons performance or will be satisfied
with the slightly less expensive SACD, which I haven’t heard, may be decided
by the extent to which you agree with BR-Klassik’s statement that the performance
is an optical as well as an aural delight: Da dieses Ereignis
auch ein optischer Genuss war, ist ebenfalls eine DVD erhältlich
As the performance took place amid the rococo glories of the Stiftsbasilika Waldsassen,
I’m inclined to agree; with the strong hand of the hugely experienced Brian
Large controlling what we see, however, the visual is never allowed to predominate
at the expense of the aural.
The recording is good, especially if played over good audio equipment
or heard on headphones. I’m listening on phones as I write this review,
with the DVD playing on my PC and I’m greatly enjoying hearing it over
again. There’s a very slight background hiss which, I imagine, is not present
on the SACD.
The BR Klassik booklet is rather fuller than usual with DVDs, though
not as detailed as the Chandos or Hyperion booklets which accompany their recordings
of the Harmoniemesse
All in all, then, if the programme appeals, especially if you like your
Haydn Masses set against rococo splendour, these performances are confidently
recommended. As I close, I have just read a review which, though rating the DVD
very highly, suggests that some of the music’s magnificence is missing.
Listen to the end of the Agnus Dei
I think that, like me, you will find that all the grandeur of the work is captured.