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Johann Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Symphonies - Volume 2
Sinfonia in D major (Perger 42) (Symphony No 21) [16.37]
Sinfonia in B flat major (Perger 18) (Symphony No 27) [17.46]
Sinfonia in E flat major (Perger 17) (Symphony No 26) [14.13]
Sinfonia in F major (Perger 22) (Symphony No 31) [20.36]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Patrick Gallois
rec. The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech Republic, February 2015
NAXOS 8.573498 [69.25]

This is an admirable companion to Patrick Gallois’ recent recording, with the same forces (and recorded in the same sessions) (review), and I hope this will be the beginning of a more or less complete set. At Naxos prices, this would be boon to lovers of eighteenth century symphonies in general, and to aficionados of the Haydn brothers in particular.

Of Michael’s 40 odd symphonies, only one (No 20, Perger 12) is in a minor key, which gives some idea of their general character – rather more festive and less shadowed than those of Josef. Throughout, there is an extraordinary inventiveness in instrumentation and there are moments of seriousness: andantes are often grave. Listen for example to the andante of the D major piece, especially from around 1.20 onwards. Notice also the sensitivity and assurance of the orchestral writing and the ability to develop a line of musical argumentation. There is delicacy in string writing but also confidence in the composer’s ability to blend brass and woodwind into the texture.

The B flat symphony demonstrates, even in its quieter moments, the characteristic bounce and shades of light which were such strong features of Michael Haydn’s writing. ‘Sprightly’ is the adjective which comes to mind, though without the elderly associations.

As with the previous issue, pieces are identified by their Perger numbers only, on both CD and notes. I have added the numbers by which the symphonies are perhaps better known. This allows direct comparison with the CPO recordings against which the present ones might be measured. These new recordings stand well alongside those.

In this (modern instrument) recording, I found the first movement of the D major symphony just a mite ponderous, and there were a couple of places elsewhere where my own preference would have been for a touch more Úlan, but these are tiny flaws in a recording which really does justice to these charming and inventive works. More, please!

Michael Wilkinson



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