Haydn: London Symphonies, Vol 3 - Weil
Ars Produktion ARS 38 063 (2 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Haydn: Symphonies No. 99, No. 100 "Military", No. 101
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Review by John Miller - October 14, 2013
The third volume of Bruno Weil's marvellous traversal of Haydn's twelve London Symphonies has been quite a long time in coming, but here it is at last. Volumes 1 and 2 (Haydn: London Symphonies, Vol 1 - Weil and Haydn: London Symphonies, Vol 2 - Weil) are fruits from his first visit to London (1791-1792). Volume 3 contains the first three symphonies written for his second visit (1794-1795), arranged in modern knowledge of compositional order rather than the official standard numbering.
Although Haydn had promised his London sponsors he would return in 6 months, it was a year before he did so, for unknown reasons. In the interval, however, he started writing some of the next group of symphonies while in Vienna. Fully acknowledging that these London Symphonies were ground-breaking, in 1793 he began Symphony 99 in E flat major, and for the first time brought a pair of clarinets into the orchestra. A pioneer of the way in which the classical orchestra developed, he was a great innovator in instrument use, making greater demands of the players. While there were no large public series of concerts in Vienna, the ever-pragmatic Haydn was well aware that his London audiences attended to hear novelty and spectacle in their music, and he was more than happy to oblige them.
Nowhere was spectacle encountered so surprisingly as his presenting a "Turkish" sound in the Symphony 100's Allegretto. The unexpected crashing in of bass drum, triangle and cymbals certainly aroused the Londoners. Such "Janissary" music was more familiar to the Viennese, who remembered their embattlement by the Turks in 1683. Played with great impact by Cappella Coloniensis on their period instruments, we get some idea of how surprised his London audiences must have been. Never a man to understate a good idea, Haydn craftily sneaked the Janissary tunes in again near the end of the symphony's Finale. Thus the war-like swagger of the second movement certainly caused No.100 to gain its title of "Military", and the newspapers also suggested that it was a memory of the current war in Europe between the French, Austrians and English, after the fall of Robspierre.
Another of the symphonies carrying novelty (apart from the surprise presentation of clarinets in Symphony 99) was Symphony 101, "The Clock", for its delightful second movement's "tick-tock" accompaniment to an amusing tune. A reporter from the Morning Chronicle reported on the concert of this symphony thus "As usual the most delicious part of the entertainment was a new grand Overture by Haydn, the inexhaustible, the wonderful, the sublime Haydn! The first two movements were encored, and the character that pervaded the whole composition was heartfelt joy."
The London reporter could have been writing about this disc, for Ars Produktion's capture of Weil's live concerts show how these magnificent performances reverberate to the presence of an audience. As in previous volumes, the playing of Cappella Coloniensis is supreme, extracting every nod and wink from the numerous Haydn and generally playing with lithe athletics, consummate dynamic changes and a wonderful orchestral balance. Clarity and vivid presence sums up the fine recording, especially in multichannel, which captures the ambient atmosphere of the Alfred Krupp Saal der Philharmonie Essen. No applause, and only slight creaks from the orchestra, intakes of breath and the odd podium noise from Weil's enthusiastic movements. Ambient sound is preserved with open microphones between movements, giving that "you are there" illusion.
Those who have already collected the first two volumes will be surely happy to have this one. Much praised so far, this set of London Symphonies could prove to be at the top of the pile for period instrument versions. And if your conversational German is up to scratch, you can also enjoy a free RBCD with a witty and insightful description to the audience of each symphony by Weil, wearing his scholar's as well as his conductor's hat. Played as exuberantly as here, Haydn's music provides a wonderful antidote for those of us who have had one Mahler symphony too much.
Copyright © 2013 John Miller and HRAudio.net