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Haydn Symphonies

Discussion in 'classical' started by FrankF, Apr 20, 2020.

  1. FrankF

    FrankF pfm Member

    Even though I've been a huge classical music fan for so long I've never actually explored the Haydn symphonies to the degree I always thought I should and wanted to. Sure I listen to one of his later symphonies here and now but as far as his other 2,639 symphonies go (excuse the gentle joke) I just haven't.

    Yes I can listen to any or all anytime and reach my own conclusions but I'd really love to know your suggestions of 5-10 or more of your favourite must-have Haydn symphonies.

    George you seem to be very knowledgeable with Haydn so would really welcome your suggestions. But I'd also like to hear from anyone who has an opinion. I like a lot of Haydn's other work but his symphonies are not well known to me.

  2. herb

    herb music live

    PsB likes this.
  3. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Irresistible thread. Haydn spent a lifetime perfecting the classical symphony. As for the Hogwood set on Decca, if you can afford it, then 104 symphonies for £104 seems remarkable to me. I know some of these recordings, and they are from the top draw, both as musical performances, and also from the wonderful production values that existed even on a huge scale in former days at Decca.

    As for favourites, well the list might be rather long. ...

    But let us consider some of the last third of the sort. Real favourites:

    La Chasse, number 73 - a tour de force of descriptive hunting horn composition.

    Number 76, not specially named, but an utter compelling masterpiece of the mid-period classical style, and with s slow movement [not all that slow really] which defies what one might think possible.

    Number 82, so called the Bear Symphony, is another perfectly formed classical piece, and in the last movement has something to show about how Croatian folk music could be treated to the classical Finale Sonata-form of a symphony, and from where the name derived.

    The Hen, number 83. You will get this as soon as you listen!

    La Reine, number 86, quite amazing how inventive this is. Totally captivating.

    Number 88 in G. Sometimes called the Letter "V" as it such an optimistic creation. Named during the WW II. Furtwangler made a superb recording after 1945, but the best I ever came across is Bernstein on youtube with the VPO. They encored the Finale, with Bernstein simply watching the orchestra playing it even better than they had just done while he directed - if minimally!

    The Oxford, which Haydn brought with him on his first visit to London in the 1790s. Named for the fact that it was performed at Oxford when Haydn received the title Doctor of Music from the University. His greatest symphony to that time, though he still would develope. It brings some darkness to his perpetual optimism.

    Obviously now we approach the Twelve London Symphonies. I am especially fond of 93, which hardly gets mentioned these days. There is a crude [by modern standards] musical joke in the second movement. Haydn retained a puckish sense of humour always.

    The Surprise Symphony [94], is rightly still famous.

    I find the peak still is in the last six, 99 in E flat to 104 in D. No reason to pick any specific example. Six masterworks that will repay endless study and consequent enjoyment. I posted about 102 the other day. Possibly first among equals in this last set [from Haydn's second visit to London].

    I could have posted youtube links for each, but I'll post a few reco's of "in the spirit" performers.

    I find that Adam Fischer and the Austo-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra [recorded by Nimbus] always give a sympathetic and insightful account. Otto Klemperer never failed with Haydn. In reality he was a Haydn enthusiast who lost nothing compared to his contemporaries in puckish good humour in the music, while being a master of clarity and energy.

    Wilhelm Furtwangler made a superb recording of 88. Eugen Jochum perfectly understood Haydn - a rougher musical world than Mozart for example - and his recordings with the LPO from DG are a prime recommendation.

    Obviously Haydn's music was made for the charming, graceful and wise music making of Beecham. On EMI - Warner these days.

    My favourite Haydn recording [bar none] is Edwin Fischer [famous pianist] in the 104 - the London Symphony - recorded in Berlin with the Fischer Chamber Orchestra, which was the chamber orchestra selected by Fischer from the BPO at the time. It is driven and hardly a tour de force of HIP style, but catches something irresistible in the music. A sort of lava flow of spirit that can survive anything. The second movement somehow suspends time in Fischer's hands, without ever loosing a basically rather quick tempo, though the rubato allows for moments of magical stasis.

    I hope that helps a little.

    Best wishes from George
    Nic Robinson, tuga, PsB and 2 others like this.
  4. gustavm

    gustavm pfm Member

    Agreeing with many of the recommendations above I'd suggest:

    1/From the "London" symphonies:
    94 (Surprise), 96 (Miracle), 101 (Clock) and 104 (London)
    I have the two sets of Colin Davis recordings on Philips Duo, which I think is excellent and great value:



    2/From the "Paris" symphonies:
    82 (The Bear), 83 (The Hen)
    I have the Neville Marriner set, also Philips duo & excellent:


    I know the others less well, but if you want to try one of the earlier symphonies as well, I'd recommend no. 7 (Le Matin), and also the "The Horn Signal" (No 31 I think)

    Personally I think Haydn's music is a delight, and radiates so much warmth, wit, good-humour and generosity of spirit - all great unTrump-like qualities.
    George J and alanbeeb like this.
  5. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Haydn Symphony 88 as mentioned earlier.

    This is joyous!

    Best wishes from George

    PS: Just found the Twelve London Symphonies from Eugen Jochum [as mentioned above] on youtube:

    After this virus horror is out of the way, I am going to get this set on CD.

    PPS: Here is Adam Fischer in the Oxford Symphony. Simply marvellous!

    Last edited: Apr 22, 2020
  6. rough edges

    rough edges pfm Member

    The Jochum/LPO set is top notch Haydn. Also check out some of the “Sturm and Drang” symphonies. Symphony #44 in E minor is a good example from that period. Hearing some of the earlier works gives a person a better understanding of how Haydn developed the form.
  7. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Dear rough edges,

    I listened to several of the London Symphonies with Jochum yesterday, and immediately afterwards ordered the CDs! This goes against my so far successful avoidance of buying anything at all since January except food and electricity, plus the obvious utility bills.

    In the Londons, I have several from Klemperer, though he never recorded the whole series, 93 to 98 from Beecham, and 99 to 104 with Mogens Woldke. These were my distillation before bringing in Jochum. In past time I had all twelve from Adam Fischer, and also Colin Davis. Great performances, but Beecham and Woldike are something else in the music.

    And I have an isolated BBC 78 transfer of Edwin Fischer's 1938 recording for HMV in Berlin of the 104. This is extra-ordinary though no doubt EMI/Warner could get a better quality from the masters stored at Hayes.

    Best wishes from George
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2020
  8. Barrymagrec

    Barrymagrec pfm Member

    I`m sure I read somewhere that EMI destroyed most of the old masters back in the sixties when nobody was interested in historic performances.

    I hope I misremember though.
  9. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    No, almost everything is preserved, though strangely some were ruined in the 1950s, when direct from the metal parts transfers were made of some rather famous recordings. After that the remaining preserved metal master parts were used for newly made vinyl discs to transfer from. In the case of the famous Elgar Violin Concerto from 1932 the English branch masters were destroyed in an early transfer to tape for LP release, but equally fine master metal parts were to be found [for the 1993 re-issues on CD] in the RCA vault in New York and at the Indian branch of HMV, where many of the very best and quietest shellac discs were pressed. Strange to think nowadays that India made record pressing shellac in the world!

    Best wishes from George
  10. Barrymagrec

    Barrymagrec pfm Member

    They have more and better beetles. EMI always had the best Beatles.
  11. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    The wonderful 1993 restoration of Elgar's electrical recorded legacy for HMV proved a real challenge to find the best master sources for the project and even then sections were incorporated using unused commercial pressings in preference to the existing metal master parts on occasion ... quite apart from recordings that were never released as 78s and the only remaining copies were test pressings given to Elgar for assessment, and preserved by his family. Some of these were quite grooved out with wear. Elgar obviously retained some regard for his unissued recordings, where perhaps the only problem was a technical recording issue or wear problem rather than musical faults.

    It is a subject that fascinated me for many years, though I think I have mined the information about it now!

    Best wishes from George
  12. rough edges

    rough edges pfm Member

    The Beecham was the first set I bought, many, many moons ago. That was followed by the Davis set, and then the Jochum. The Beecham is probably my desert island choice, but that's because it was my first exposure to this wonderful music. The Jochum set is equally fine, but doesn't have the same sentimental value to me. That's the only difference here for me...

    Too bad that a lot of contemporary conductors try too hard to stand out from the rest, and end up either sounding eccentric, or just plain bombastic.

    Re: Buying Shit... I haven't had anything delivered for about 8 weeks, so I totally get the avoidance thing. Tough times.
  13. FrankF

    FrankF pfm Member

    Thank you everyone for these suggestions. I started with 44, 92 and 93 and definitely recognized them and like them a lot. I'll enjoy going through each and every one of your suggestions.

    Funny how with most composers you can throw a number at me and I'll know instantly which symphony you're referring to but for reasons I can't explain I've not been able to do that with Haydn although I like his music very much.

    Guess there'll be lots of Haydn going on in my house!
  14. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Dear Frank,

    The great music of Haydn lacks the modern seeming requirement for angst. It is joyful, and even when a some dark shadows become apparent, these are always resolved. Nobody ever came away from a Haydn piece without being emotionally uplifted ...

    Haydn's music is absolutely apt for our times. An oasis of joy for its duration to distract his from everything else!

    Best wishes from George
  15. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Haydn's Trumpet Concerto. Music to raise spirits in our current time.

    Please give it the necessary quarter of an hour. This concerto should give anyone some respite.

    It has brought tears to my eyes, though I have known this music for fifty years,

    Was Haydn the greatest composer of all, even including Beethoven or Bach?

    Perhaps one might think so in troubled times.
  16. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    As a little post script, the Twelve London Symphonies on DG CDs with the LPO and Eugen Jochum arrived eight days ago.

    I am delighted with this set. There seems no weak link among the performances, and I like Jochum's quite direct and unfussy style. The LPO play with the elan you would expect from one of the World's great orchestras.

    In the first six, I am finding a preference for Eugen Jochum over both Thomas Beecham and Colin Davis, but that is simply a subjective view of course. I am especially taken with the handling of the Finale of 98, where the somewhat unusual formal structure of the music can lead to some outré tempo changes, but Jochum holds it all in wonderful equilibrium. Just one example of the many musically wise insights in these recordings.

    In the last six, I have the extremely rare by now recordings of Mogens Woldike and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, so named as Decca had an exclusive contract with the Vienna Philharmonic for recording at the time, but the personnel are the same. Just that the concert giving orchestra is called the Philharmonic, whilst the Vienna State Opera name is taken when they work as the theatre orchestra.

    In truth I cannot say I prefer one to the other set between Jochum and Woldike. The biggest difference is the actual orchestral sound. The Vienna orchestra of the 1950s sounded like no other anywhere. Musically Woldike is apt to bring a harder edge to the timpani when called for, and it sounds like very hard sticks were used, which cuts through in a refreshing way. I am glad to have both sets in reality.

    But the Beecham and Davis in 93 to 98 are due for rehoming!

    Please forgive this little opinion piece.

    Best wishes from George

    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  17. rough edges

    rough edges pfm Member

    Glad to hear you like Jochum's Haydn. Try his mono Brahms or his Bruckner (Dresden) cycles if you want more. Cheers.
    George J likes this.
  18. Naimlover

    Naimlover Member

    Providing you don't mind 'original instruments' type recordings, this is a very fine box set at an excellent price:


    (Tony - please amend the link to get your referral if necessary)

    Hearing this edition gives you an idea of what the Esterhazy Court heard when they were first performed, so it's an interesting take on the earlier symphonies. The performances are first rate and having bought them at full price when they were released, I think that they are now a bargain! Happy LIstening!
  19. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Dear Naimlover,

    Your reco' is very tempting. This thread is costing me money!

    So many wonderful symphonies here, and I know them without owning recordings. I never knew that Pinnock had made these recordings. I bet they are fabulous. I'll find out for myself before long!!

    Thanks and best wishes from George
    Naimlover likes this.
  20. rough edges

    rough edges pfm Member

    I have some of those Pinnock recordings on individual cds. That box set looks rather nice, though. Hmmm...
    Naimlover likes this.

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