HAYDN Symphonies Nos 49 & 87 (Christophers)
With this recording of Haydn’s Symphony No 87 (1785), Harry Christophers and his Boston band are now five-sixths of the way through their survey of the ‘Paris’ Symphonies, with only La Reine (No 85) still to go. Along with No 84 it’s the least-performed of the six, perhaps because it lacks a punchy nickname or the trumpet-and-timpani brilliance of some of the other works in the set. That’s to do it a disservice, however, as it’s as tautly wrought as any of Haydn’s mature symphonies, the high horns providing sonic brilliance in lieu of trumpets. The Adagio is a hymnlike being that showcases Boston’s wonderful woodwind soloists, while the rustic Minuet provides a characteristically Haydnesque contrast with the nervy, monothematic finale. Top marks for a full quota of repeats and a namecheck for oboist Debra Nagy for a delightfully cheeky turn in the Trio.
Symphony No 49, La Passione, perhaps enjoys more individual fame than No 87. Dating from almost two decades earlier, it’s cast in the most austere Sturm und Drang, barely leaving the orbit of dark F minor except for a moment of major-key relief in the Trio, once again with prominent horns rising to the top of the register. The Adagio comes first, setting the scene for an angry Allegro di molto, which sizzles with a fury that is only topped by Giovanni Antonini on the disc that recently launched his cycle – but then, the ‘H+H’ and Il Giardino Armonico are very different ensembles, even if they are fairly evenly matched in the seething finale.
Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky returns as soloist between the symphonies in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, joined from the ranks by viola player Max Mandel, who very nearly outdoes her in the charisma of his playing. The programming is thought-provoking, once again pitting Haydn, the earthy intellectual, against his younger contemporary, the sophisticated and well-travelled savant. Allow for the merest audience rustle and the occasional hint of an ensemble fluff – all but unavoidable in concert – and Christophers once again demonstrates that his 203-year-old band are in rude health.