It was an excellent idea to compile a two-disc set of Mogens
Wöldike’s complete Danish recordings of the music of Haydn.
The booklet proclaims ‘Haydn Symphonies’ but whilst that’s a
convenient title, the two discs also contain the D major Cello
Concerto and the pithy German Dances, of which we hear numbers
1-6. The symphonies are numbers 43, 44, 48, 50, 61 and 91. It’s
also important to note the geographical qualifier. This Danacord
double – a handy slimline, thankfully – does not include the
recordings that the conductor made in Vienna where he taped
a slew with the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, that hard-worked
band, at around the same time. So if you’re looking for those
excellent recordings of Nos. 101 and 103 and their companions,
for example, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
What we do have are the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra performances.
The band occasionally travelled phonographically as the ‘Danish
Radio Symphony Orchestra’ but though the new name implies a
bigger body of players, it sounds recognisably the same chamber
ensemble. The recording location remained the same; the Large
Concert Hall of the Radio House, Copenhagen. The recording companies,
however, varied between the Haydn Society (43, 50, 61), HMV
(91—made on 78s—and the Cello Concerto and Dances), and Decca
Wöldike (1897-1988) was a stylish, alert and lively Haydn conductor.
Symphony No.48 is well-scaled with crisp brass playing, and
the pomposo characterisation of the Menuetto well
attended to. Accents are taut, but not overdone, and the music
is always led onwards with an exemplary sense of direction.
It was released on LP with No.44, a sterner and more ambiguous
work. Fine horn playing and alert lyricism run through this
recording, but Wöldike captures without question the provisional
quality of the symphonic victory, its hesitancies and tentative
nature. Neither of these recordings has been re-released since
Earlier the conductor had turned to the fledgling Haydn Society
to record No. 50 which he coupled with No.43. The chamber forces
here were 6-6-4-2-1. Again, these are first class performances,
with flowingly taken slow movements, fine wind pointing — try
the oboe in the Menuetto of No.50 — and bassoon doubling
the bass line. There is also the question of the special ‘Haydn
Society’ horns — instruments in high C, which were not to reappear
in the series, unfortunately. Earlier still, in 1949, HMV had
recorded the conductor and orchestra in Symphony No. 91 which,
together with the German Dances, was issued on three 78s. Presumably
because of timing limitations, repeats - unusually for the conductor
- were not taken, but the phrasing is extremely personable,
not least the bassoon and cellos, with motion guaranteed, unfurling
a sure sense of dancing gait in the Menuetto. Symphony
No.61 is engaging, once again, though at his tempo, the caesura
at 5:02 in the opening movement does sound a touch laboured.
The Cello Concerto’s tempo is probably the cellist’s as it’s
notably slower performance than the symphonies — indeed occasionally
sluggish. Still, the obverse is the measured and loving phrasing
applied by the young Erling Blöndal Bengtsson. There is real
pathos in the slow movement, albeit overall the soloist is prone
to retard the passagework too much.
Otherwise, this splendidly annotated set deserves a warm welcome.
Transfers are uniformly good, and the performances enshrine
music-making of a positive and keen-eared classicist.