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Haydn Symphonies on Radio 3 - Where We're At ...

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Denis McCaldin Denis McCaldin | 09:24 UK Time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

barbirolli_bbc_350.jpgAfter almost a month away, I was pleased to find myself refreshed and impressed with today's Haydn Symphony (No 82 The Bear) on Radio 3's Classical Collection. Bloggers and listeners will remember that the producers are taking us through the entire sequence at the rate of two symphonies a week and we have now reached the first of the Paris set - Nos 82-87, with No 83 (The Hen) due to be broadcast in the morning spot on Friday.

All six scores maintain a wonderfully consistent level of invention.  Clearly Haydn was thrilled to be writing for a much bigger orchestra than his own Esterhazy group.  Compte d'Ogny's Concert de la Loge Olympique was probably the largest orchestra in Europe at the time, with 40 violins and ten doublebasses.  It was made up of the most distinguished professionals in Paris and the best amateurs.  The orchestral dress was truly striking - the players wore sky-blue frock coats with lace ruffles and swords by their sides.  Their concerts were patronised by the Queen, Marie Antoinette, and the nobility, and held in the 'Salle de Spectacle de la Societe Olympique'  a fine theatre with seating in boxed tiers.

I'm taking a particular interest in the Radio 3 producers' choice of performances for these works.  Today it was the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra under Lovro von Matacic.   Although the recording dates from 1981, it has kept its lustre.  The engineers found a good balance between the strings and brass, although I'd have liked to hear rather more of the woodwind - especially as these symphonies show Haydn really savouring the chance to write both soloistically and as a group.  

On Friday I'm much looking forward to hearing the redoubtable Sir John Barbirolli with the Halle in Symphony No 83 (The Hen).   Firstly this features a symphony orchestra, and is therefore much more in keeping with the size of the ensemble for which they were originally written.  Secondly, John Barbirolli had a huge repertoire, and was seldom, if ever, dull!       



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