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4.0 out of 5 stars Blowing out the Candles, 30 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 31 "Hornsignal" & 45 "Farewell" (Audio CD)
Felix Mendelssohn revived many a forgotten work. Haydn was little played in his time - after all, Schumann had likened him to an avuncular figure from whom there was nothing to learn. When Mendelssohn conducted the Farewell Symphony in Leipzig, he conceded afterwards that it was a melancholic little piece.

It is a lot more than that. The Farewell Symphony is just as much an act of valediction as the Song of the Earth or the Ninth Symphonies by Bruckner, Dvorak or Mahler. Sure, it is garbed in the Classical idiom but its restraint is no barrier to depth of feeling. This softness in the slow movement; the soliloquy of the horns in the minuet and of course the inexorable departure of the musicians, one by one, in the last movement: are they not are all deeply human gestures? How can they not resonate?

Before penning this review, I thought to myself: is there a definitive performance of this masterwork? A veritable legion has stepped up to the podium: Marriner, Solomons, Koopman, Barenboim, Weil, Goodman, Harnoncourt, Pinnock, Bruggen, Haechen, Hogwood, Klee, Dorati and Fischer (the list could go on). Many of them are meritorious - others seem to be conducting the Valley of the Dry Bones Symphony Orchestra.

Mackerras, to my mind, is the frontrunner. His sense of scale is impeccable. There is a nocturnal intimacy to the music-making that hardwires us back to the original performance at Esterhaza. Assuredly, a departure is upon us; it remains to be seen if the parties will ever see each other again - and if a reunion does occur, time has slipped away in the interim - and yet we are meant to experience such transience. We would not be human without it. Blessed be Terminus, the Roman God of Ends and Boundaries.

This disc also contains the Hornsignal which sounds so much more characterful in Symphonies 31, 59 & 73. But you won't be shortchanged. Mackerras' Farewell is reason in itself to purchase this disc.
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5.0 out of 5 stars well-recorded, elegant, even if not Haydn at his most inspired, 12 Sep 2013
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Stanley Crowe (Greenville, SC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 31 "Hornsignal" & 45 "Farewell" (Audio CD)
These two symphonies, from 1765 and 1771, aren't the greatest symphonies Haydn wrote, but they are inventive and charming, and in both the leading players in each section are given a chance to strut their stuff, to put it in a way that Haydn wouldn't. In the variations finale to No. 31, each variation is given to a soloist from the orchestra, with the horns, which had opened the symphony, having the final, invigorating word. In No. 45, in the adagio part of the finale, each player has a solo moment, after which (in the original performance) he would pick up his music and walk off the stage. Even the double-bassist has his moment (just as he has his variation in No.31 too). This supposedly was Haydn's way of hinting to his patron, Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, that his musicians deserved more time off with their families. It's a charming idea, and the ending of No. 45 has a touch of melancholy about it, very far removed from the storm and stress of the vigorous first movement. Telarc records the Orchestra of St. Luke's beautifully on this 1988 disc, and Mackerras conducts with vigor, clarity, grace, and feeling. According to the booklet, the orchestra in this recording was about the size of Haydn's Esterhaza group -- and judging by the solo parts, Prince Nicholas had provided Haydn with some very high-quality players. At its current low price, this disc is a bargain worth considering. I don't know of any better modern-instrument performance.
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Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 31 "Hornsignal" & 45 "Farewell"
Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 31 "Hornsignal" & 45 "Farewell" by Charles Mackerras (Audio CD - 2008)
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