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This review is from: Symphonies 31, 59 & 73 (Audio CD)
Period Practice does not come better than this. If the opening of the Hornsignal does not grab you by the . . . . . . widgets, then perhaps you should have been more careful with those scissors when you were younger.
The virtuosity and musicianship of Harnoncout and the Concentus Musicus Wien are astounding. Better still, they sound enraptured from the first bar until the last and why wouldn't they be? The Hornsignal, Fire and La Chasse are three of Haydn's greatest creations and none the worse for lacking the neuroticism of Late Romanticism. Surely the Lord of the Dance must revel in this music. Contrary to expectations, Harnoncourt imparts charm to proceedings; the slow movement of the Hornsignal is a nocturne and idiomatically played here: one is transported back to the 'Magic Castle' in the middle of the Hungarian countryside with nary a light-globe to sully the stars above. The concertante finale of the same symphony is played with poise and stillness. The horn-passages throughout are undertaken with great verse and brio. And what could one possibly say of the finale of La Chasse that would do it justice? It carries all before it.
As played like this, there are no greater symphonies in the world. None.
When I worked in a classical music shop, I would often thunder out this CD on the sound-system and not once did I manage to play it all the way through: it inevitably found a home well before the hunt began in the last movement of La Chasse.
At the behest of his 'Wild Man of Borneo' daemon, Harnoncourt has recorded any number of howlers over time. Here, his madness is transfigured into genius. Redemption accordingly is his.