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Briefly Noted: Haydn 2032

available at Amazon
Haydn, Symphonies, Vol. 2 (nos. 22, 46, 47), Il Giardino Armonico, G. Antonini

(released on June 30, 2015)
ALPHA671 | 75'18"

available at Amazon
Vol. 1 (1, 39, 49)
ALPHA670 | 70'52"
Any good recording of Joseph Haydn's symphonies is welcome at Ionarts, where the Austrian composer's music is a matter of faith. The 200th anniversary of Haydn's death, in 2009, brought a number of new contenders to our ears, by Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, Gottfried von der Goltz and the Freiburger Barockorchester, and Bruno Weil and Tafelmusik (in re-release). Last year the Alpha label and the Joseph Haydn Stiftung Basel inaugurated the Haydn 2032 project, for which Giovanni Antonini will record all of Haydn's 107 symphonies, divided between his period-instrument ensemble Il Giardino Armonico and the Kammerorchester Basel, in time for the 300th anniversary of the composer's birth, in 2032.

Antonini worked with the former group on the first two releases in the series, and it puts its crisp and lightly balanced sound to excellent effect in these relatively early symphonies. Limited numbers of strings are well matched to the sounds of 2-key oboes, 4-key English horns, one-key flute (played by Antonini himself), natural horns, and harpsichord (for most of the early symphonies), reflecting the size of the orchestra Haydn led while in the employ of the Esterházy family, generally somewhere between one and two dozen players. Of the six Haydn symphonies recorded so far, scholar H. C. Robbins Landon, whose critical editions remain the gold standard, advised that harpsichord was implied or required in nos. 1, 22, 39, and 49, and omitted in nos. 46 or 47. Antonini follows Robbins Landon only in the case of no. 1, leaving out the instrument in no. 22, perhaps because the harpsichord would distract from the odd, inspired dialogue of horn and English horn in the first movement, as well as nos. 39 and 49.

In an unusual but value-enhancing way Antonini has included, on each disc of three symphonies each so far, a less-known work by one of Haydn's contemporaries: on the first disc, Gluck's ballet music for Don Juan, last heard from Opera Lafayette in 2008; on the second, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's Sinfonia in F Major, Fk. 67. Both of these pieces are well worth hearing, and Antonini situates them, in extensive booklet notes (in booklets, it must be said, already very thick with lots of seemingly unrelated photographs), as foils for and influences on Haydn's symphonies. By the end of the series, this combination should leave the listener with not only a better understanding of Haydn's symphonies, but also a broader context for them in the history of 18th-century music.

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