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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]

This is the tenth volume in Giovanni Antonini’s traversal of Haydn’s currently known 107 symphonies, with the project aiming to reach its conclusion in 2032, the year of Haydn’s tercentenary. Each release has been programmed around a theme, with a work by one of the composer’s contemporaries added. The performances are played on period instruments, and two ensembles share the task over the series, namely Il Giardino Armonico and the Basle Chamber Orchestra. Several of the previous volumes have been reviewed in these pages, and what has been written is positive. I have to say, this is my first encounter with the project.

Haydn’s Symphonies 6-8 often carry the title ‘The Day Trilogy’. They date from around 1761, and were the first symphonies the composer penned on his appointment as Vice Kapellmeister to Prince Paul Anton Esterházy that same year. The Prince had a penchant for programmatic music and requested something from Haydn to demonstrate the skill and scope of his newly formed orchestra. The composer responded by offering three symphonies in the concerto grosso style, incorporating virtuoso writing for solo and groups of instruments.

These three early symphonies are known by their nicknames: No. 6 in D major “Le Matin”, No. 7 in C major “Le Midi” and No 8. in G major “Le Soir”. I’ve always singled out “Le Matin” as my favorite. The performance here is exceptionally fine. Antonini makes an impact from the start in the dramatic way he opens the first movement, depicting the mysterious sunrise in spellbinding fashion, the sound slowly emerging from hushed silence. His brisk, animated tempi are exhilarating, and truly bring this music to life. The solo instruments are vividly profiled in the balance, with each given its moment in the sun. The tempi of the three sections of the slow movement are nicely judged, as is the opening out of the diaphanous orchestral textures and the meticulous control of dynamics. The Menuetto has a real spring in its step and the flute solo is gleaming. In the finale there’s a marvelous interplay, or maybe I should say dialogue, between the flute and strings. Antonini keeps tight rhythmic control throughout.

A solemn opening ushers in the spirited opening of No. 7 “Le Midi”. Antonini achieves some luminous sonorities in the slow movement. There’s a remarkable cadenza for violin and cello midway, an unusual feature. Once again, the Menuetto is sprung and buoyant, preceding a finale where the flute has a prominent role. The delicacy of the articulation makes this something very special. Likewise in No. 8 “Le Soir” the same virtues apply, namely superb orchestral balance, filigree textures, crisp articulation and pliant rhythms. In the La Tempesta finale, we hear the raindrops, thunder and then the storm. The build-up is powerful and intensely dramatic.

Whilst the triptych follows the sun’s course from dawn until night, Mozart’s Serenata notturna completes the musical day. The work is in three movements, and its character is uplifting, joyous and refined. The timpani are notably potent and striking. This is Mozartian playfulness at its very best.

This is a beautifully presented album with some excellent accompanying notes. Antonini has worked very closely with musicologist Christian Moritz-Bauer throughout this endeavour, and both have contributed to the annotations. The booklet also features a selection of intriguing photographs by Jérôme Sessini of the Magnum agency. The performances themselves have been warmly captured, and the balance between the instruments couldn’t be bettered. I’m certainly won over by the enterprise and will be keen to explore the other volumes in the series.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Michael Greenhalgh

Reviews of other volumes in the series:
Volume 3 ~ Volume 4 ~ Volume 5 ~ Volume 6 ~ Volume 7 ~ Volume 8

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