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These late Haydn symphonies, written just prior to Haydn's epochal voyage to England and the even more epochal death of Mozart, are some of his freshest and wittiest creations. Still under the influence of Paris' Concert de la Loge Olympique, the virtuoso band for whom Haydn had created his Symphonies 82-87 on commission from Count d'Ogny, there is a wonderful frothy lightness and melodic charm to these symphonies: typically 18th Century Gallic qualities that the cosmopolitan Haydn transmutes into sonic gold. Sigiswald Kuijken (despite the Wagnerian name, he is a splendid conductor of Haydn) and his period orchestra La Petite Bande play these symphonies beautifully. And because they are historically informed performances, we are treated to the gutsy, rough-cut sound of period strings when the dynamics reach forte or beyond, to the succulent, burnished tone of those lovely period winds, to the way dynamic stresses bloom but never break and to the grainy, rough-hewn warmth of the overall orchestral sonority.

If you are unused to period performances, what some uninitiated reviewers here describe as 'flatness' and a 'lack of drama' is precisely what makes these performances so good. La Petite Bande adopt the playing conventions of Haydn's time, eschewing the Romantic era accretions that can make for a certain blandness or smugness when playing these symphonies. These performances have bite. They have soul. They are superlative. Given the price of the two disc sets, and the fact that they are not always in print, I strongly urge you to consider these wonderfully evergreen Haydn symphonies. They will brighten your day as they do mine. The sound of the discs has a clarity and transparency that is typical of their 1990 recorded provenance. Because of their slight high-end brightness, the sound of the strings and woodwinds are especially emphasized, serving to highlight Haydn's brilliant contrapuntal writing.

Brand New /sealed 2CD
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  • Seller location: Lower Hutt City, Wellington, NZ

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