I have no idea what Rattle is attempting here - but somewhere in his rise to the top of his profession he's managed to forget all the things that once made him an excellent Haydn conductor - or for that matter, an excellent conductor, period!
From the lame unsprung rhythms of the Minuet of 88, where, instead of the bracing life-affirming fff stomp of a Furtwangler or a Scherchen, Rattle gives us a matter of fact statement of the forte carefully played and incapable of awakening anybody to stepping out - let alone back from the dead as Scherchen plays it! - and all the way to Rattle's handling of the final Presto of 92, where the opening woodwind's notating is completely smeared - and all the way between - this is just a total mess. Volumes too often merge together, rather than contrast. Playing continually runs down rhythmically, like water seeking the lowest level. One minute Rattle goes for rubato and odd tempo changes with all the trimmings and odd quirks ala Frans Bruggen and his Orchestra of the 18th Century, forgetting that Bruggen can do this without losing his edge because he brings far more alacrity to his proceedings through knowingly playing off the harsher contrasts of his period instruments. By comparison, Rattle's ensemble using modern instruments designed and played by the Berlin players for optimum melding sounds like a nun on a burleske stage. Then, just as you wonder what possibly could be the point to such contradictory proceedings, Rattle suddenly alters his style, and rushes things along to a strict metronome count as unyielding as Gardiner. It's positively crazy - there's no overall unifying vision, and the playing ends up saying nothing.
I have no idea whose idea was this disaster - but why would one go out of his - or her- way to drastically reduce the forces of the Berlin Philharmonic in the first place for such grandly symphonic music is beyond my comprehension. We have far too many examples of smaller bands! As I have said before, and often, Haydn would LOVE to hear the full Berlin play his music. I mean really, would you tell Haydn, "We're only going to use the full orchestra for this Shostakovitch piece later in the program, your music gets the small group." Yeah, right. Haydn was a reasonable man, but he knew his worth, and were he brought back from the grave I'm sure his reply would be ferociously and clear - "Like Blazes you're going to sell my music short! You play it with the full orchestra or don't bother!"
Why articifically create another smaller ensemble from a group so peerless as the Berlin? Is this what we can expect from Rattle in the futrue when he essays Mozart's Jupiter? It makes no sense - especially for this large scaled - yes, even Olympian music. But worse, having shrunk the forces, one might at least expect period instruments and far more careful delineation, and better more precise readings. The idea that one reviewer claims, that you can have your cake and eat it too, with 18th century period style and late 20th century super smooth intonation and teamwork is laughable! This is the worst of both worlds.
Symphony 88 is one of the grandest, most heroic symphonies in the entire classical repetorie. And 92 is not far behind. Denying these works their true glory with the full complement of the Berlin Philharmonic, as Furtangler used, is not so much a blunder, as unmitiagted baloney! Rattle does not expand our vision of the mighty works, he shrinks it!