Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Defence Rests

From October 3, 2015:

Though these three Haydn symphonies never had cute publisher’s nicknames to make them stand out in the crowd, they are anything but slight works, but rather are three superb examples of Haydn’s middle period. The invention of the melodies, the striking details of orchestration, the shifting moods and unexpected modulations: everything points to a composer just coming to the peak of his powers.

I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have written the above sentences before I heard this new Nicholas McGegan CD with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. I’ve heard these works often in the past, in very good versions, and didn’t sit up and take notice the way I did now. There’s a sparkle and verve to the playing, but also a seriousness, a sense that this music really *matters*, that McGegan manages to communicate to his players, and to us. Haydn’s reputation has been hurt by the perception that he’s a light-weight compared with Bach, Mozart or Handel, but in my books Haydn is an equal partner in what Kenneth Clark called ‘the harmonious flow and complex symmetries” of the best 18th century music. This CD is an outstanding piece of evidence in support of this view.

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