Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Haydn on Period Instruments

Amid all the distressing news these days---as well as yesterday's 9/11 anniversary---I've been cheering myself by catching up on this set of Haydn’s 107 symphonies, which came out a year or two ago. I planned to write about the set after I’d listened to all 35 CDs. That hasn’t worked out; they’re fun to listen to more than once, after all! So I'm taking my time, and getting further into all the music.

As this article discusses, the set is the first recording of Haydn’s symphonies on period instruments. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, and Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, recorded several of the symphonies, but plans for complete recordings faltered. Between the two orchestras, only symphonies 78-81 were not recorded on the older instruments, and the gap was filled by Ottavio Dantone conducting the Accademia Bizantina.

The order of the symphonies reflects research done since Haydn’s symphonies were first numbered. For instance, on this set, 30, 34, and 72 share a disc, because now we know they were written at about the same time in the 1760s.

I wrote about Haydn's symphonies a few years ago. I had ordered the Adam Fischer-conducted, 33-CD set of Haydn's 104 symphonies, which included two string quartets for which woodwind parts were discovered, and a sinfonia concertante. Later on, I downloaded the Antal Dorati-conducted set, which I used to see in record stores that I frequented. A common misconception, which I shared, is that Dorati's was the first complete recording of Haydn's symphonies. But the notes of this new set point out that Ernst Märzendorfer (1921-2009) was actually the first, on a set of LPs sold by the Musical Heritage Society, a mail order club to which I used to belong. At that time, though, I wasn't yet paying attention to Haydn's music.

I still enjoy the Fischer modern-instrument recordings the best. To me, he and the players really bring out the beauty of the adagio and minuet movements. But how wonderful to gain this new perspective on such a rich source of musical beauty.

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