Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Symphony no. 6 in G major, Le Matin (?1761) [23:20]
Symphony no. 7 in C major, Le Midi (1761) [24:52]
Symphony no. 8 in G major, Le Soir (?1761) [23:38]
La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken (violin)
rec. Galaxy Studios, Mol, January 2012. DDD
ACCENT ACC 24272 [71:57]
Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Symphony no. 6 in G major, Le Matin (?1761) [22:26]
Symphony no. 7 in C major, Le Midi (1761) [24:35]
Symphony no. 8 in G major, Le Soir (?1761) [23:24]
NFM Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra/Jaroslaw Thiel (cello)
rec. Jan Kaczmarek Concert Hall of Radio Wroclaw, 23-25 September 2010. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 167-2 [70:47]
Die Tageszeiten as the Accent CD titles them, The Day Trilogy, are the most attractive and often performed of Haydn’s earliest symphonies. Having the titles Morning, Noon and Evening helps but it’s difficult to find a specific programme for these works other than the depiction of daybreak at the opening of Symphony 6 and the storm in the finale of Symphony 8. What makes them popular is their vivacity, their sheer variety and wealth of engaging instrumental solos. However, recordings on period instruments aren’t that common so it’s good that here are two more.
Symphony 6 is Haydn’s Pastoral Symphony. Not only are cheerful feelings awakened here but the world wakes succinctly in the introduction (tr. 1) as dawn breaks and a crescendo fills out the environment. Then comes an Allegro of total vivacity as the strings scurry around. Jerky rhythms seem to represent creatures shaking themselves awake. There are semiquaver bird calls from flute, oboes and bassoon. Just what sort of a bird the bassoon is I shudder to think: maybe a dodo. Still Haydn has a surprise up his sleeve as he begins the recapitulation (3:29) on solo horn. This is the first time I’ve heard Poland’s only period instrument orchestra, the National Forum of Music Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra. What a terrific performance it gives in the Accord recording, a wonderful celebration of the joy of being alive. This culminates in getting bolder in the second half repeat so that the final bassoon bird-call is more like cocking a snook. Based in Belgium, La Petite Bande in the Accent recording is much better known and living up to its name has a smaller string section with only 2 first and 2 second violins. The Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra have 3 of each. Both orchestras then complete the strings with one each viola, cello and double bass. Perhaps because of this La Petite Bande’s strings are more vehement in their articulation and dynamic contrasts. The latter is particularly finely realized, bringing out the teeming vivacity of the piece and leaving the woodwind to provide lyricism rather as a relief. This all makes for streamlined precision virtuoso display but it’s not as enjoyable as the Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra’s emphasis on the joy of the music and music-making.
In his 1976 book on Haydn symphonies Anthony Hodgson reckons the slow movement is a music lesson. Well, the first violin demonstrates mastery, but what about the cello which soon joins in and leads in the second part of the Andante which follows the Adagio introduction? A star pupil? The way the rest, the strings, tiptoe about, or if you like introduce a basic framework, at the beginning of the Andante sections and yet occasionally make echoing and other forays of their own is entertaining too. The proceedings end with a lovely Adagio, a close of lesson benediction perhaps. What’s clear in Thiel’s account is that the soloists enjoy their flights of fancy: the first violin embellishes the cadence ending the first part of the Andante, the cello that ending the second part. The others manage to contribute as well without any hint of disrespect. Kuijken’s take on this movement offers more contrast. There’s more character to the introduction, a more commanding presence at the outset but thereafter more winsome lyricism. The tempo change to Andante is more marked so the strings’ proposition is more jocular and the solo violin’s response merrier. As if that’s enough high jinks the cadences ending each part are unadorned and the closing Adagio is just formally reverent, less magical than Thiel’s.
Thiel’s Minuet has a staid opening from which the flute escapes and in its second strain oboes, then horns become expansive. These are finally joined racily by the violins, a transformation Thiel relishes. The Trio is even more exotic, featuring a dogged double bass solo backed by pizzicato cello and important input from bassoon and viola, colourfully realized by Thiel. Kuijken brings more swing to the Minuet at the outset, anticipating and allowing for a cheekier flute solo and then skipping second strain. This is before he makes an effective contrast by paying particular attention to the sudden cut-off, pause and calming down of the final phrase. Kuijken’s Trio, smoother and more lightly articulated than Thiel’s, has greater humour and has more in common with the mood of the Minuet than that of Thiel. The finale from Thiel is all youthful high spirits, dashing in both senses. It’s marked Allegro. Thiel takes it closer to Presto but this nicely points up the charming points of temporary relaxation towards the end of both its sections when the scoring thins out and the semiquavers vanish. Kuijken takes the opposite approach in tempo: at a timing of 6:02 against Thiel’s 4:42 he’s just about Allegretto which makes the relaxation a bit drawling. True, you get more inner detail and finely nuanced violin solo from Kuijken but it’s at the expense of dynamism.
Symphony 7 is very much a sinfonia concertante with significant involvement of solo first and second violins, cello and a strong showing also from a pair of oboes and horns. In the first movement this makes (tr. 5) for a lively conversation of equals as its joyous Allegro gambols friskily along after an introduction which contrasts earthy horns and bassoon with regal strings. There really isn’t a dull moment but most surprising is the variety of mood of the first violin solo, with a suddenly wistful passage (from 4:32 in Thiel) amid all the whoopee. Thiel adopts a slightly faster tempo than Kuijken (7:53 against 7:33) with thereby more emphasis on adrenalin than savouring. Kuijken is more laid back and refined, especially his own first violin solos; throughout he gives us great vertical clarity. Thiel is more exciting, in particular the contribution of the horns but also the way he keeps everything tingling along. There’s more celebration here of Haydn’s mastery of the blending of all the instruments.
The Accord CD puts the second and third movements together on one track. This makes sense because the second movement is a dramatic and highly varied Recitative, the third an Adagio of serenity and exquisite refinement. The matching is a little problematic in that the Recitative is more troubled. Zbigniew Pilch, Thiel’s violin soloist who carries it, stands out in particularly high relief against warm and smooth oboes and strings at the opening. Thiel takes it in a more measured fashion than Kuijken (2:50 against 2:32) which results in less urgency but more individuality to the soloist’s statements. The third movement Adagio then can be heard from Thiel as a contented Aria, as it were. This sweeps away the earlier clouds in which the violin soloist now has the cello as like minded partner. Two flutes provide a heavenly obbligato backdrop. All this is rather more fastidiously presented and sweetly distilled by Kuijken at a slightly faster tempo (6:02 against 6:24) but in comparison with Thiel’s living in the moment it seems a little distanced.
To the fourth movement Minuet (tr. 7) Thiel brings an engaging swagger. I like the way he softens the violins’ highest rising phrase in the opening section to anticipate the soft quavers which follow. It’s full of tricks like the first violins’ syncopation against the seconds (0:42), here presented tongue in cheek while the Trio unusually spotlights the cello. Kuijken’s Minuet is a bit more weighty but less lilting while in the Trio his cellist is more lyrical yet has less presence than Thiel who is cellist here as well as conductor. In the finale (tr. 8) all the instruments come together and there’s a party atmosphere. Thiel attacks with relish, the flute now chirpy and enjoys a phrase that ends in mid air (first heard at 0:33). Kuijken has equal fizz but his touch more measure (4:44 against 4:13), while providing more instrumental detail and rhythmic bite, makes the festivity a little more courtly.
Symphony 8 begins quietly beaming but soon opens out. Thiel scurries around with great verve, grinning and sprightly but offset by flute and oboes’ calming passages. The dynamic contrasts which are an important feature throughout are clearly put across. Thiel’s horns really let rip in the second section repeat. Kuijken is surprisingly more high powered, intense in contrast of dynamics and steely in rigour but with less sense of respite. The slow movement features a pair of violins plus cello and bassoon soloists. It’s the most reflective in all the symphonies here, sweet, sunny and exquisitely realized by Thiel. It is luxuriantly warm and relaxed, but at a tempo which is more Adagietto than the marked Andante. The outcome is that you begin to lose a sense of momentum and wonder when the movement will end. Kuijken, who takes 8:03 rather than Thiel’s 8:40, displays more flow which for me enhances the movement’s intimacy and hence sensitivity. At the same time it’s always clear it’s going somewhere. The Minuet is cheery, rather conventional but bolstered by Thiel’s horn contributions. It’s Thiel’s Trio that’s more distinctive in its benign jollity with double bass solo and a lovely little cadenza added at the fermata in the second half repeat. Kuijken’s Minuet is a touch slower and more formal, yet by contrast his Trio is warmer and more rustic. In the finale we come full circle back to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony with Haydn’s Storm. Lots of spruce demisemiquaver thrashing around to enjoy from Thiel here. It’s very much more stimulating than scary however, even if the flute solos could be a bird showing some signs of alarm. Kuijken is again slower but rather more biting with waves of sudden attack. Even so, his more lightly articulated flute is pretty contented, definitely not a bird, possibly pattering raindrops?
Thiel provides the notes in his CD’s booklet. Like his performances, they’re brimming with enthusiasm. The notes in the Accent CD booklet, by Bernhard Blattmann, like Kuijken’s playing, display their learning and a more objective consideration. In fact both CDs are satisfying in different ways but if I had to make a choice my preference would be for Thiel’s freshness and directness over Kuijken’s neatness and sophistication.
Thiel offers freshness and directness, Kuijken neatness and sophistication.
Masterwork Index: Haydn symphonies
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