Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Sinfonia in D major, Hob. Ia:7 (1777) [4:51]
Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. I:88 (1787) [19:36]
Mass in B flat major, Harmoniemesse, Hob. XXII:14 (1802) [42:34]
Malin Hartelius (soprano); Michaela
Knab (soprano) (Credo); Judith Schmid (contralto); Christian Elsner (tenor);
Bernhard Schneider (tenor) (Credo); Franz-Josef Selig
(bass); Bavarian Radio Chorus/Peter Dijkstra
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. live Catedral, Waldsassen, Germany, 7 October 2008 BR KLASSIK
Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons took up the post of Chief
Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2003.
of a concert given in October
2008 and issued on Bavarian Radio’s own classical label, brings a rare
and welcome opportunity for those who know his work only from recordings to hear
him in repertoire outside the romantic and late romantic periods.
The concert opens with a vigorous performance of Haydn’s Sinfonia in D
major, composed in 1777 as an opera overture and pressed into service in at least
two subsequent symphonies. There then follows the delicious eighty-eighth symphony.
It receives a fine performance from Jansons and the Bavarian orchestra. The playing
is robust and forthright in the faster passages such as the first movement and
the turbulent middle section of the slow movement, though the solos are beautifully
taken in the earlier part of this movement. The minuet is charmingly done, and
the familiar finale too, though others have found greater delicacy here.
The main work on the disc is also very well done. A photograph of the choir shows
forty singers, and close inspection of another, perhaps taken at the concert
itself, shows even more. This same photograph reveals three double basses in
the orchestra, with the rest of the strings presumably in proportion. A largish
group, then, confirming the impression given by the symphony, and not forgetting
that this last of Haydn’s series of six late masses is the most heavily
scored, with parts for eleven wind players and timpani in addition to the strings.
The Latin text is pronounced, as one would expect, in the German manner, and
the choral singing is superbly confident and detailed. The cathedral acoustic
is very reverberant, but the engineers have mastered this for the most part:
only in the final Dona nobis pacem is there a slight suggestion of acoustic
muddle. I should have liked a more forward balance for the solo bassoon here,
that delicious chuffing solo not quite as prominent as it might be, and the choir
could have been a little further forward too, but this is a very marginal point
and not everyone will think so. Jansons encourages his performers to produce
a rich overall sound, and this is achieved without undue heaviness. So this is
not a period performance as such, but tempi are rapid and the dramatic passages
are dispatched quite without the ugly overemphasis that marred many of the performances
on the Naxos collection I reviewed some months ago. That said, the Benedictus,
which the composer marked pianissimo, could be more fleet-footed and fun
than it is here. The solo quartet is outstanding, especially when singing together,
their voices perfectly matched. Special mention should go to the soprano in Et
incarnatus, though it’s impossible to be sure which one of the two
named singers it is.
The booklet contains the full Latin text of the Mass. The essay by Alexander
Heinzel is of only limited use and, I think, must have given the English translator
(Donald Arthur) a few headaches. There is audience applause after each work,
surprisingly luke-warm given the quality of the three performances, but that
is perhaps the local way. If the programme appeals and you’re not expecting
a performance in the Harnoncourt style, you needn’t hesitate.
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