HAYDN Symphonies Nos 53, 64 & 96
Carlos Kalmar chooses three named symphonies for a Haydn disc with the Portland-based orchestra of which he has been music director for nearly a decade and a half. Judging from these performances, taken live, Oregon’s Haydn lovers are well looked after by the Uruguayan but Austrian-trained conductor.
Kalmar ideally encapsulates and characterises each symphony, locating the enigma at the heart of Tempora mutantur, with its wonky, scatter-brained themes, as well as the majesty of L’Impériale and the Miracle. Woodwind solos are shaped well (there’s a wonderful oboe solo leading into the Miracle’s Allegro), while the horns that form the core of L’Impériale’s sound world are given space to make their mark. The leader, too, imparts an echt Viennese lilt to the Trio of the Miracle’s Minuet. For those to whom such things matter, Kalmar opts for ‘Finale A’ (as designated in the Philharmonia score) in No 53.
These are modern-instrument performances with occasional audience noise but no applause. The playing and the intelligence behind the conducting are of a standard to make this far more than a souvenir d’occasion. Perhaps less than a decade ago that would have made this a top recommendation if the (unique, I think) coupling appealed. However, since then we’ve been taught new ways of playing and hearing Haydn by the likes of Thomas Fey, Marc Minkowski, Ottavio Dantone and Giovanni Antonini. The latter will get round to all these symphonies over the next 15 years (Tempora mutantur is already on his third volume – Alpha, 5/17). But this is a fine fill-in till then.