Michael Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 34-39 (CD review)

Johannes Goritski, German Chamber Academy Neuss. CPO 999 379-2.

Here's an early companion disc to the CPO Michael Haydn set I reviewed more recently.

Neither the music-loving public nor the recording industry has been particularly kind toward Joseph Haydn's brother, Michael. Where you'll find hundreds if not thousands of recordings of Joseph's works, you find only a relative handful of discs presently representing brother Michael's many hundreds of works. He was certainly almost as equally prolific as his brother but, unfortunately, nowhere near as original, profound, witty, clever, or, ultimately, vital. Of Michael Haydn's forty-one symphonies, record companies have recorded but a dozen or two in stereo, and, I believe, this disc gathers together most of the six pieces represented here for very first time.

The Austrian composer Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806) was, of course, Joseph's younger brother.  People today probably know him best for his sacred choral pieces, and in this regard some scholars believe his work may have influenced Mozart. Moreover, he taught Carl Maria von Weber and Anton Diabelli, so, yes, he was quite important in his day.

While not as memorable as the works of his more illustrious sibling, the later symphonies on this disc have strong characters of their own. Nos. 34 and 36 are particularly strong and inventive, and all of them come in typical three-movement, fast-slow-fast, Classical style.

The interpretations from Maestro Johannes Goritski and the German Chamber Academy Neuss seem more perfunctory than infectious, but they suffice to deliver the disposition of the music. For the collector or for the fancier of this musical period, the collection is a necessity and makes a good addition to the other CPO recordings of Michael Haydn's works from Goritski. For the merely curious, though, I recommend the sound above the performances.

The CPO audio engineers succeed in reproducing a big, bold sonic picture, reasonably well placed within an agreeable acoustic setting. While not purely audiophile in the sense of high definition, the sound is natural and pleasing to the ear. This music is hardly adventurous, but it is different, it is historical, and it is congenial; reasons enough, perhaps, for it to deserve a place on one's shelf alongside more noteworthy names.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa