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: