Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 25 in C (1765) [12:12]
Symphony No. 42 in D (1771) [28:26]
Symphony No. 65 in A (1772-4) [26:32]
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois
rec. Lauka Church, Jyväskylä, Finland, October-November 2007
NAXOS 8.570761 [67:21]

Flautist-turned-conductor Patrick Gallois, in these Haydn performances, draws from the best aspects of two distinct styles of performance. In doing so he strikes a convincing middle ground. The solid, forward instrumental sonority suggests a modified version of the old-fashioned, big-orchestra manner, but he guides it with the lightness and purposeful phrasing favoured by the period-practice fraternity.

Based on the booklet photograph, the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä is a modern-instrument ensemble of chamber proportions. Their forthright, clean sound, however, suggests a pared-down symphony orchestra rather than the more anemic "historical" groups. The string tone is handsome; the horns, in their exposed moments, are full-bodied and firm. Attacks and accents are incisive, and the sonority is weighty and grounded.

The twelve-minute C major symphony has just three movements, lacking a slow movement. In the bustling outer movements, Gallois contrasts the vigorously rhythmic elements of the texture against the the legato motifs. This brings out the variety of the sonority though the secondary material could have been more subdued in spots. He phrases the central Menuet with real elegance.

Both the other works are in the standard four-movement format, with the slow movement second. These performances display similar strengths. Gallois is, again, particularly good in the propulsive outer movements: even in the A major's sturdy, big-boned Vivace e con spirito, the momentum doesn't flag in the lyrical phrases. The finales are busy, but not helter-skelter. That of the D major has a good sense of weight, with room for all the little notes in the rondo variations to speak clearly. The A major is jocund and playful and draws thrust and drive from the chugging chords in the development. The inner movements evince plenty of character as well, with the D major's Andantino e cantabile maintaining its initial dignified, stately demeanour as it moves through unsettled minor keys.

The sound is pleasing, though perhaps not quite realistic: the close, detailed orchestral image sounds out of sync with the longish hall resonance, though the latter undoubtedly helps fill out the ensemble sound. The writer of the booklet note doesn't always seem to have been hearing quite the same symphonies, or perhaps performances, that we've got on the disc. Still, if you want musically informed performances played by a polished modern orchestra, this disc is sure to please and at minimal cost.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Musically informed performances played by a polished modern orchestra. This disc is sure to please and at minimal cost.