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Utterly thrilling and uplifting music with performances to match. In a word - inspiring and on every level,
This review is from: Haydn: The 'Sturm und Drang' Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This period of Haydn's middle symphonies known as 'Sturm und Drang' symphonies has long been my favourite period of his symphonic output. They have a vitality and expressiveness which, no matter how more complex and sophisticated his later works undoubtedly become, is quite without equal in the later works.
Partly this is a matter of scale and the more chamber sized orchestras used at this time in Haydn's career and as heard here, which allow for more flexibility and more dynamic contrast. By this latter I mean the relative difference in scale which can be achieved between the feather-light pianissimos to the really punchy fortissimos. The same applies to the contrasts possible in terms of instrumental textures where all the variety of instrumental writing has an almost chamber music level of immediacy and impact. All of these things add up to 'Strum und Drang' and which become softened with the larger orchestras and larger scaled later compositional ideas. Contrast the relatively muted effect of the 'surprise' in the Surprise symphony and hear how more effective the punching out dramatic effects are in any of these middle works which make use of the high horns for example. It is in the use of the high horns that Pinnock is slightly more restrained than Bruno Weil with Tafelmusik. Preference on this point will be a matter of personal taste.
So much for personal enthusiasms. Pinnock obviously shares the same view, as these performances come alive as never before. The playing of the orchestra is beyond superlative and Pinnock's direction is inspirational. The recordings are of equal merit and allow the full splendour of these performances to really shine and leap off the discs. The only performances to come anywhere near these are those in the boxed set by Bruno Weil and the Tafelmusik and they are sadly incomplete with 15 of Pinnock's set of 19 duplicated. The missing symphonies are 26, 35, 38-9 and 59 and 64 is added in. On the plus side Weil also includes an excellent set of Paris Symphonies though and at a very budget price. The Weil set offers similar scaled performances but a little less restrained in terms of the horn playing especially.
I can only suggest that if this set of these wonderful symphonies is of interest to purchasers or to collectors, then they most certainly merit the most serious consideration possible. Also to be given serious consideration should be the Bruno Weil set which overlaps rather than duplicates as described above.