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Haydn: Symphonies 92, 93, 97-99 - Sir Colin Davis

Haydn: Symphonies 92, 93, 97-99 - Sir Colin Davis

LSO Live  LSO0702 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Haydn: Symphonies 92, 93, 97-99

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis


The late Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra present a collection of Haydn’s expressive and resplendent London Symphonies alongside the spirited and melodic Oxford Symphony.

Sir Colin Davis was long recognised as a pre-eminent Haydn interpreter. During his Indian summer with the orchestra he recorded both Die Schöpfung (The Creation) and Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) for LSO Live. These symphonies presented here were recorded in 2011 during this same period, and make for revelatory listening.

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Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - July 16, 2014

This two-disc set of Haydn Symphonies is a fitting memorial to the late Sir Colin Davis and his championship of a composer most dear to his heart. During his long career he recorded all five of the works presented here in the 1970s and 80s with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and his distinguished complete set of the 12 'London' Symphonies (Nos. 93-104) has been justifiably celebrated for over 40 years as one of the great glories of the gramophone.

Tantalisingly though, only one of those marvellous Concertgebouw performances, that of Symphony 99 in E flat, was recorded quadraphonically and has since appeared on the PENTATONE RQR series Beethoven: Symphony No. 1, Haydn: Symphonies 88 & 99 - Davis in excellent 4.0 multi-channel sound.

Sir Colin's accounts of Symphonies 92 'Oxford', 93 and 97-99 with the LSO were recorded live in concerts given in the Barbican between May 2010 and June 2011 (the same series of concerts, incidentally, at which Davis's powerful Nielsen Symphony cycle was also recorded).

These are big-boned performances that reflect both Davis's life-long experience conducting these pieces and his uncompromising and well-documented views on period performance. The latter he has described as “unspeakable”; full of theoretical dogma and and lacking in emotional content. Those with no vestige of sympathy for Sir Colin's views need read no further.

Though none of these LSO performances can be considered as a clear replacement for Davis's earlier recordings of these works, they do at times reveal an even greater sense of drama and a gravitas that often moves them closer to the world of Beethoven and Mozart's final symphonic outpourings. In general minuets are robust and muscular whilst the outer movements are leisurely and delivered with affection and grace, though sometimes with a lack of sparkle and urgency. It is perhaps in the slow movements that Davis is at his finest where he brings a noble breadth of utterance to some of Haydn's most sublime creations. The LSO respond throughout with their usual commitment to their Principal Conductor, and fortunately, on this occasion, the often unsympathetic Barbican acoustic does allow the wind solos, trumpets and timpani to register clearly in addition to a few of Sir Colin's vocalisations.

It would be all too easy for some to dismiss these performances as overblown and hopelessly old-fashioned, but to do so would be to ignore the magisterial grandeur, elegance, and humanity that Davis brings to these life-enhancing works.

As an adjunct to Davis's earlier Haydn recordings these characterful performances are certainly worth considering.

Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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