Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphonies from the Itter Broadcast Collection
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9119 [8 CDS: 535 mins]
If you’re an out-and-out Haydn enthusiast like myself and don’t mind old-school performances, then this 8CD set should fit the bill just fine. This is another release from the Lyrita Recorded Edition’s transfer programme, begun in 2014, of the Richard Itter Archive. From 1952 until 1996 Itter, founder of Lyrita, recorded BBC transmissions using professional state-of-the-art disc and tape recorders. These he meticulously documented to form an archive of Proms, premieres, operas, symphonies and chamber music, which eventually amounted to around 1500 items. His careful storage in a single location ensured the discs survived over 60 years in remarkably good shape. This release focuses on a collection of 24 symphonies by Haydn, including two versions of No. 103, from 11 orchestras and 19 conductors. The recordings date from between 1952 and 1960, and derive from BBC broadcasts of concert and studio performances.
What endears me to this collection are the number of less well-known symphonies scattered throughout. Hermann Scherchen’s 1950s Haydn symphony recordings made their debut on CD in 2003 in DG’s Original Masters series. I return to them often, and was pleased that the Itter Collection offered No. 29, not in the DG box. The orchestra is the Royal Philharmonic and the date is 22 September 1952. Scherchen paces the first two movements in a broad and stately manner, with the slow movement, especially, given weight and gravitas. The finale is invigorating and delivered with blazing intensity. Here, the composer teases the listener with irregularities of phrase and meter, and the virtuosic scale passages all add to the excitement and are wonderfully carried off. There’s an uplifting sense of joy and celebration in the first movement of Symphony No. 30 in C ‘Alleluja’ with its quote from the Easter liturgy. The slow movement showcases a delightful flute solo, and the finale is an elegant minuet. Boyd Neel and his orchestra do themselves proud in this traversal from Christmas eve 1952.
The conductor Stanley Pope (1901-1995) is a name I’m unfamiliar with. He’d studied with Frank Martin and Paul Kletzcki and Haydn’s music featured prominently in his repertoire. Here he conducts the Symphony No. 28 in A major. Two outer sprightly movements bookend a contemplative slow movement and a lusty minuet. Much better known is Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, who conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the Symphony No. 64 ‘Tempora mutantur’ in a performance from November 1952. It’s a sunny, fresh-face account which smiles all the way. I’m very taken, too, with his ‘Oxford’ Symphony from February 1956, with the same forces.
No. 98 fuses wit and solemnity. The 1956 performance by Geraint Jones and his orchestra is one of the highlights of the set. After the Adagio introduction to the opening movement, the music becomes vigorous and engaging. Jones is superb in the slow movement in the elegant way he contours the long phrases. The string sound is so warm and comforting. The fourth movement is played with lightheartedness and panache. There are two versions of Symphony No. 103, one features the London Mozart Players under Harry Blech (1956), the other is a later performance with Harry Newstone and the Haydn Orchestra (1959). Both are captivating readings and I’m hard pressed to choose between the two. However, the earlier performance is in slightly better sound, with greater depth and presence.
I need to say a word about the audio quality. Obviously allowances have to be made regarding the fact that these are live mono recordings from 1950s. I find them perfectly acceptable and the sound is pretty consistent throughout. Many of these conductors didn’t leave us commercial recordings of these works thus, as a whole, these aural documents are of notable historical importance. Rob Barnett has provided some interesting biographical portraits of the conductors in the accompanying booklet.
Symphony no.6 in D major, Hob.I:6 'Le matin'
Symphony no.25 in C major, Hob.I:25
Symphony no.28 in A major, Hob.I:28
Symphony no.29 in E major, Hob.I:29
Symphony no.30 in C major, Hob.I:30 'Alleluia'
Symphony no.34 in D minor, Hob.I:34
Symphony no.43 in E flat major, Hob.I:43 'Mercury'
Symphony no.52 in C minor, Hob.I:52
Symphony no.53 in D major, Hob.I:53 'Imperial'
Symphony no.64 in A major, Hob.I:64 'Tempora mutantur'
Symphony no.80 in D minor, Hob.I:80
Symphony no.83 in G minor, Hob.I:83 'The Hen'
Symphony no.85 in B flat major, Hob.I:85 'La Reine'
Symphony no.90 in C major, Hob.I:90
Symphony no.91 in E flat major, Hob.I:91
Symphony no.92 in G major, Hob.I:92 'Oxford'
Symphony no.93 in D major, Hob.I:93
Symphony no.94 in G major, Hob.I:94 'The Surprise'
Symphony no.96 in D major, Hob.I:96 'Miracle'
Symphony no.98 in B flat major, Hob.I:98
Symphony no.100 in G major, Hob.I:100 'Military'
Symphony no.101 in D major, Hob.I:101 'The Clock'
Symphony no.102 in B flat major, Hob.I:102
Symphony no.103 in E flat major, Hob.I:103 'Drumroll'
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Boyd Neel Orchestra
Geraint Jones Orchestra
London Chamber Orchestra
London Mozart Players
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Reginald Jacques Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Louis Boyd Neel