Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 82 (CD review)

Also, Violin Concerto in G minor. Aisslinn Nosky, violin; Harry Christophers, Handel and Haydn Society. CORO COR16113.

Maestro Harry Christophers is back with another live recording from the Handel and Haydn Society in Symphony Hall, Boston, this time leading the period-instruments group in Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 “Le matin,” Symphony No. 82 “L’ours,” and the Violin Concerto No. 4 in G major. How much you enjoy the album may depend upon how much you like quick tempos, period instruments, and live recordings.

For those of you who may not be aware of it, the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra has been around since 1815, the second-oldest musical organization in the U.S. and the country’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. Harry Christophers has been the Music Director since 2009, as well as leading the vocal ensemble The Sixteen.

The program begins with Haydn's Symphony No. 6 in D major "Le Matin" ("The Morning"). It was among the first works Haydn composed for Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy in 1761 and one of a trilogy of symphonies: "Morning," "Midday," and "Evening." No. 6 is at least partially descriptive, and while Christophers adopts a fairly quick pace, we can still hear the sunrise in the first movement and some birds (woodwinds) in the background. The second-movement, however, is the highlight of the piece, very serene and atmospheric. The flute work in the Minuet and Allegro finale is quite delightful as well.

Next up, we hear the Violin Concerto No. 4 in G major from around 1769. The orchestra's concertmaster, Aisslinn Nosky, handles the solo duties. We don't really recognize Haydn for his concerto work, yet there is much to enjoy in the cheery freshness and warmth of the music. Then, too, Nosky's playing is refreshing, and the piece is especially lyrical in the Adagio.

The Symphony No. 82 in C major "L'ours" ("The Bear"), which concludes the program, is the first of Haydn's so-called "Paris Symphonies," written in 1786 for one of the most-fashionable concert societies in Paris. Christophers typically takes the symphony at fleet-paced tempi, making things lively yet richly expressive. In this work we find Haydn a bit more brawny than he was in No. 6 and using a bigger orchestra. The bass accompaniment probably helped the piece acquire its nickname many years later. A playful Allegretto and Minuetto follow, which also find Christophers and company in good spirits. Then, speaking of good spirits, the Finale: Vivace takes us out in a whirlwind of notes, with the orchestra continuing to demonstrate a precise control and Christophers going full bore, making this a jolly good ride.

As much fun as the program was, though, I couldn't help thinking how much more I would rather have heard the "Morning," "Midday," and "Evening" symphonies all on one disc. I think there might have been enough room for all three, particularly given the speeds Christophers adopts.

Producer Raphael Mouterde and engineer James Donahue recorded the music at Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts in February, 2013. While the sound is, indeed, live, there is no worry about audience noise: They are very quiet, and the close-up miking ensures we hear just the orchestra and not the listeners. The CORO team also spare us any applause, so there, too, we can be grateful. However, the quiet backgrounds come at the expense of some small degree of veiling. Don't expect the sound to be as vibrant, alive, or well extended as a good studio production. That said, there is a wide stereo spread involved, decent dynamics, reasonably strong impact (timpani sound grand), and despite a little dullness, a modestly respectable midrange definition.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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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.

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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