Monday, December 5, 2016

Haydn, Joseph. (1732-1809) Symphonies. CD 1. The Christopher Hogwood Edition.

From my collection.
Bought in 2013.
First listen: 18-4-2013.
Second listen: 5-12-2016.
Label: L'oiseau-Lyre.
CD 1 from 32.
Recording dates: Symphonies 1,2,4: July 1990, Symphony No. 5: July 1991.
Recording venue: Studio 1, Abbey Road, London, England.
Recording engineer: They are named but not attached to each separate recording.
Running time: 54:00.
Classical relevance: Essential, but not the last answer in interpretation.

Works performed

Symphony No 1 in D major. No. 2 in C major, No. 4 in D major. No. 5 in A major.


Works performed by:

The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood.

I have listen today to a recording of the complete set done by Antal Dorati on Decca, and came to the conclusion that I have outgrown the way it is played. I finally lost my unwavering allegiance to this set, and decided to let it rest in my collection forever, for it served it's purpose, and now newer approaches take over the helm from the much venerated conductor that has us all introduced to Haydn wondrous world in recording the first complete set of his Symphonies. But I now know more, miss more, and am more critical in what I hear, or rather what I do not hear. I already have a very good set by the likes of Adam Fischer on the label Brilliant. A good all round performance throughout that can stand easily on it's own feet and will hold a primary place in any collection, without putting you to shame. And now I bought this set some years ago by the late Christopher Hogwood, a much lamented conductor that alas did not complete this set entirely. This is to be regretted immensely, but alas cannot be repaired, so we have to do with what he recorded and that's quite a lot. I have listen to this set from 2013 till 2014, and remember that I was not totally satisfied with the result, so after a few years of attuning my ears anew, I took the box out of my collection and started again with disc 1. What I thought then and still do, is that Hogwood keeps most of the time to his speed limits, almost never overstepping the boundaries set by the movements, with an exception of the fourth movement, Finale: Presto of the fifth Symphony. 
Hogwood follows the tempi indicated and in this he is not at fault. But some movements would benefit greatly if played a little faster as he does. Gentle, sophisticated, elegant, poetical, yes all these things are abundantly present, but also polite, reserved, a bit too mild in the expression of emotion, and rather a stiff walk at times. Agility is less of a factor, and the energy is sometimes at a low voltage. A gentleman at leisure is a good term. But this said, there is a enormous amount of detail, and beautiful phrasing, careful observance of fff or ppp, that makes this a see through performance in which you will not miss anything.  But do not expect to be swept of your feet, for you will not. To understand Haydn as an orchestrator you could not wish for better performances. And as such I applaud them, and start with some rested ears on this journey.
The sound is a bit unbalanced at times. It is always very good, but there are some anomalies which I rather would not hear.
Symphony No: 1/2/4 are made on the same dates and have a good soundstage, with plenty of air around the instruments, in the fff when Horns and the top notes of the Violins come together the horns get a hooty sound and mixed with the violins gives a shrill tone. No 5 which is recorded a year later, accentuates these things, for it is louder recorded and the orchestra is more on the foreground. I was not expecting this from the DECCA engineers, but let's hope this is not repeated.




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