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on 27 August 2014
Sir Colin Davis's Concertgebouw recordings of the complete London symphonies are so highly regarded these new recordings have a lot to live up to. Concert reviewers at the time were generally positive but felt that Davis's Haydn was a little more sedate than before: whatever the truth of that comment to the concert hall listener, these recordings are lithe and nimble in the menuets, fleet-footed in the finales, and rock solid in the slow movements. Certainly the bass is firm, particularly at the start of the opening movements which may lead to that impression of sedateness. All of these symphonies have a slow introduction - at various times the booklet notes tell us that 'all'/'almost all'/'most' of Haydn's late symphonies had a slow introduction.

The recording is admirably clear throughout, and like other LSO Live recordings there is no applause or audience intrusion. The booklet lists all the musicians who took part in the five concerts from which these recordings were taken (nineteen second violinists, nine oboists!) - a review at the time indicated the Oxford symphony featured ten first violins and four double basses. Highly recommended.
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I was a little bit nervous as I popped the first cd of this set into my player. Could the conductor who pretty much set the bar of Haydn symphony performance rise above the standard he had set himself? Sir Colin Davis's recordings for Phillips with the Concertgebouw Orchestra have been, for many years, the recordings that all others are judged by.

Sir Colin himself was a much older man than the one who made those priceless recordings and I was concerned that increased gravitas would have shackled his Haydn somewhat. Whilst this no doubt reaps dividends in Bruckner, the earlier composer needs so much more. There is, perhaps, a little loss of sparkle in the fast music and the twinkle in the eye has dimmed a little but there is no doubt the enormous affection that comes across in the phrasing of the slow music. It's simply breathtaking. That, for me, more than compensates for there being a shade less spring in the step.

I do wonder if today's LSO are a match for the Concertgebouw Orchestra in those classic discs. Although the orchestra play wonderfully there is, IMHO, a slight feeling of the first violins only being 99.95% on top of the notes as the music in the 'slow' movements gets more and more complex. Haydn is one of the greatest challenges for an orchestral violin section and any hesitation does show.

According to the notes, the symphonies were recorded between May 2010 and December 2011 and the sound is quite consistent although no. 97 in C sounds a little boxy compared with the others. (Probably the Barbican's notoriously dry acoustic to blame here). There is more bloom on the sound than has been noted from this sourced in the past. Unhelpfully, there's no information on the size of orchestra used here and the list of players give no clue since not all musicians would have been playing in each performance. (9 oboe players are listed!) There is an occasional outburst from a harpsichord.

These are superb performances and I wonder what else the LSO are sitting on in their vaults.

Recommended with all enthusiasm.
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on 26 November 2014
Glorious music played with such zest and affection by one of the world's great orchestra, for one of the masters of Haydn conducting. A fitting tribute to the late Sir Colin Davis.
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on 16 April 2015
Brought for my mum and she loves it.
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on 29 July 2014
Colin Davis regularly confronted his younger recorded self during his final decade, re-recording on the LSO live label almost all the Berlioz repertoire he had previously pioneered on Philips, but to very muted applause from critics. Here we have the bones (the "Oxford" Symphony and four London symphonies) of what would have presumably have been, had he lived longer, a complete remake of the late Haydn symphonies. His earlier Haydn cycle (also live recordings) was a regular best-version choice and is the obvious comparison to make with the present set.

Put on any of those 1980's Concertgebouw discs and it is immediately obvious that not a thing has changed interpretatively in thirty years. Davis went on disregarding new editions of the symphonies and the lessons of historically-informed performance, and he produced no new wisdom of his own. Even the groaning is much the same. It is also obvious that the old recordings were far better than the new from a technical point of view, and that the Concertgebouw then were much the better band. We have to listen to the contemporary LSO through an aural murk, struggling to hear any detail in the tuttis. What we can hear is not rewarding. They sound dutiful at best, and completely lost at worst - bars of the 98th's slow movement pass by as they try to catch up with each other.

I suppose these discs were released for strictly commercial reasons. I think it's a shame that such a decision was made; it does no favours either to Haydn or to the memory of Davis.

The one positive thing I can think of to say about this sort of resolutely old-fashioned interpretation is that it lets us hear Haydn played by a really big band, one about the size he had available during his second London visit. Most modern performances are by much smaller groups, and are probably rather over-interpreted (historically speaking) as a result. But if you want such an approach, better go the first Davis cycle on Philips, or better still try Bernstein or Karajan, who were just naturally old-world, unlike Davis who made a self-conscious choice to ignore the results of historical research he did not like. To hear a thoroughly modern version you could do a lot worse than the recent Thomas Fey recording of the 99th & 100th symphonies. The end of Fey's 99th will leave you cheering (and cheerful) which is more than you can say of the LSO live account.
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on 28 February 2015
Everyone should have this
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on 2 September 2014
I always love Haydn music for its freshness,and general musical drollery. These pieces fitted the bill very well.Someone once unkindly said that Haydn wrote the same Symphony 104 times. They do not see Haydn's symphonic development as he wrote more and more of the pieces,nor his general expansive style. They are full of wit,full of invention,and the early London Audiences must have been very pleased with them way back in the 1790's. I know you have got some more great discs of this composers symphonies, and when the time is ripe,ie I can afford them I shall be back. A study of his string quartets is also well worth the study.Let no person say he wrote a string quartet 59 times,because composers ever since he started the ball rolling,have been greatly influenced by his contribution,including dare I say it Beethoven
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on 12 February 2015
no comments
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on 22 April 2016
It's OK.
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on 20 July 2014
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