Haydn Symphonies Nos 99 & 101
After a gap of more than two years Jeffrey Tate and the ECO complete their set for EMI of the six last symphonies of Haydn, and from the high success of this third disc in the series, I hope they go on to do all 12 of those Haydn wrote for London. As before, Tate takes a rather broad view, adopting speeds that might initially seem slow and heavy in this age of period performance—he is consistently slower than Jochum (DG) in the Clock for example—but which make for light, transparent sounds that have something of the magic of Beecham (CfP) but with a sharper concern for matters like repeats and detailed points of authenticity in the text. One such is the main theme of the ticking-clock slow movement of No. 101, where following the Robbins Landon edition Tate takes the top note of the first phrase, the B, staccato as marked, where traditionally it was sustained.
All four movements of the Clock are light and relaxed, most delightfully of all in the 6/8 Presto of the first movement, which gains from a speed where the rhythm can skip instead of just rushing. The enormous scale of the Minuet is the more appreciable at Tate's speed, with the rustic fun of the Trio charmingly touched in.
The fun in much of the inspiration of Symphony No. 99, too, comes out delightfully in Tate's reading and the scale both of the performance and of tie recorded sound brings out the general lightness of texture and the dramatic contrasts of the brass incursions, which punctuate even the slow movement. The playfulness of the finale with its interchanges between the wind instruments is a particular delight. Solti's version with the LPO—astonishingly the only current alternative on CD for this glorious work—was one of the finest in his variable series for Decca and that can still be recommended for those who want No. 93 for a coupling instead of the Clock. But even more than in his previous Haydn recordings with the ECO, Tate here shows—as in his way Beecham always did—how winning a relaxed approach to these masterpieces can be. It keeps making you think what a delightful old man Haydn must have been.'