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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony no.6 in D major, Hob.I:6 'Le matin' [20:22]
Symphony no.7 in C major, Hob.I:7 'Le midi' [24:08]
Symphony no.8 in G major, Hob.I:8 'Le soir' [21:06]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade no.6 in D, K239 'Serenata Notturna' [12:52]
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
rec. 2019, Euregio Kulturzentrum Gustav Mahler, Toblach, Italy
Haydn 2032 Vol.10: Les Heures du jour
ALPHA 686 [78:36]

For me the most striking of the Times of day, this CD’s theme, and Haydn’s symphonic trilogy is Symphony 6, Haydn’s Pastoral symphony, whose Adagio introduction is a sunrise, briefly but powerfully delivered in 40 seconds by Giovanni Antonini. All creatures come to life in the Allegro main body: chirpy flute, a pair of oboes, loud interjecting tuttis of biting attacks of fp period instrument chords from Antonini’s frisky strings, the pulsating advance of the development, the recapitulation surprisingly started by solo horn. Antonini observes the second half as well as exposition repeat so you fully appreciate these later features.

The slow movement showcases a solo violin’s lovely arioso of mellow appreciation of life against a halo of strings’ backcloth. This is after a brief limbering up by the soloist. Is this, as Richard Wigmore suggests in his Faber Pocket Guide to Haydn, “a comic send-up of a music lesson”? It’s preceded by another pp slow rise for introduction, so I suggest the ‘lesson’ is also Haydn saying, before you can play really expressively, as the soloist does, you have to warm up properly. Antonini doesn’t repeat the second section here, but the return of the Adagio opening, artfully expanded, comes like a blessing.

In the Minuet Antonini gives us a bouncy tutti leading to a lively flute solo. In the Trio a rather furtive cello solo is actively beneath a mysterious, sultry bassoon, itself niftier in the second part against a duet for viola and cello. The finale Antonini takes at breakneck speed with the ever-rising scales in semiquavers from the strings a touch combative. It’s a marvel of energy, with terrific verve in the second part from the violin soloist. Heard live I’d feel stimulated indeed, but recordings you expect to play more than once and I think I might need to brace myself before listening again. If you don’t want such a roller coaster ride, I suggest the 2010 recording by the Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra/Jaroslaw Thiel (review), who never forget this is above all joyous musicmaking. Less brilliant playing than Antonini, but more jubilant. Mind you, with an orchestra of 16, Thiel is arguably closer to Haydn’s early Esterházy band size than Antonini’s 26, numbering 19 strings to Thiel’s 9.

As ever in his cycle, Antonini juxtaposes the Haydn symphonies with contemporary works by other composers to clarify Haydn’s achievement. Here are coupled Haydn’s Evening Symphony (no. 8) with Mozart’s Night Serenade of around 15 years later. Both are very vibrant pieces but Haydn’s is the more active. It begins Allegro molto, Antonini at first soft and expectant, lightly scored before dapper tuttis, then a whirl of semiquavers exchanged between strings and wind and the interchange of these two bodies is the key element. But in the Andante slow movement 2 solo concertino violins duet with bassoon and cello obbligato, the effect intimate and sweet, other instruments and the ripieno violins hovering around providing a refined backcloth. There’s nothing of this rarefied nature, notably in the high tessitura of the solo first violin, in the Mozart, except in its soloists’ oasis of delicacy and refinement in Mozart’s Trio. Haydn’s Minuet is brisk, purposive, yet Antonini shows it light on its feet. Haydn’s Trio is more inward, especially its cello solos. Haydn’s finale is a tour de force because it depicts a storm, not as violent as Vivaldi’s, yet bursting forth in tuttis of thunder and lightning in which Antonini provides enough sheer dazzle from the period strings to take you out of your seat. Yet his solo flute can still twinkle like a little star brightly, impervious to cascades of falling strings, especially in the second strain when the woodwind and strings power forth demisemiquaver descents with admirable precision of ensemble (tr. 13, 1:54). The whole is an adventure and you feel actively involved.

With Mozart the difference is partly that between a symphony and a serenade. The serenade is above all entertainment in a masked ball for upper and middle classes, so a bit downmarket from Haydn’s more select audience. As it progresses in Antonini’s account I very much feel that inhibitions are increasingly cast aside, as if the liquid hospitality is generous. Note the soloists’ sneaky added ornamentation on repetition, or at pauses. And I have no problem with Antonini’s heavy bounce to the tuttis here contrasted with the quieter, suaver concertino manner of the first and second violin principals and viola. In the opening movement’s second strain the tutti and timpani particularly parade a softer manner, but not for long. In the rondo finale come, expanding the preceding tuttis, a drum riff (tr. 14, 2:51), cello one (3:11), first violin cadenza (3:48) and double bass riff (4:44). I enjoy Antonini’s rugged heartiness, but if you want a cleaner line, still spruce is the 1983 Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood account (Decca 4117202, now licensed to Presto).

Michael Greenhalgh

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