HAYDN Symphonies Nos 8 & 84
Harry Christophers and his Boston ensemble complete their cycle of the three ‘Times of Day’ symphonies, the three violin concertos and the first three ‘Paris’ symphonies, and this third disc is the best of the consistently stylish series. Aisslinn Nosky once again applies her focused tone to the A major Concerto and she is joined by the front desks of the Handel and Haydn Society in a wonderfully chamber-like Le soir, with solo playing that oozes the fun they must have been having, from the flute of Christopher Krueger right down to the cheeky virtuoso double bass of Robert Nairn.
This is the sound of a conductor and an orchestra really clicking with their namesake composer. In Symphony No 84, too, their love of the music is palpable, from the sustained string introduction (a forerunner of the Parsifalian opening of Symphony No 102) to the playfulness of the finale’s long-legged themes. Listen especially to the horns in the opening movement’s tuttis near the beginning of the Allegro – delicious.
Speeds are bright, with the Minuet of No 84 faster than allegretto, as is the current fashion. The only black mark is that second-half repeats in the outer movements are omitted in the later symphony, while they are observed in Le soir. Occasional minor blips remind us that these performances are recorded in concert (there is minimal audience rustle and no applause) but this only adds to the feeling of living, breathing music.
Where now for the series? There are three more ‘Paris’ symphonies, which Christophers – who has just renewed his contract in Boston until 2021 – has been conducting with the Society. Of course, there are plenty of early symphonies with which to pair them; but what of the concertos? It would be good to hear any of the Handel and Haydn players as soloists, but it is Nairn’s bass-playing, especially, that makes you rue the disappearance of Haydn’s 1763 concerto for the instrument.