HAYDN: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 3: Nos. 82, 88 & 95 – Heidelberger Sinfoniker conducted by Thomas Fey – Hänssler

by | Jan 10, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

HAYDN: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 3: Nos. 82, 88 & 95 – Heidelberger Sinfoniker conducted by Thomas Fey – Hänssler 98.265 [Distr. Allegro], 68:00 *****:

Conductor Thomas Fey has earned a well-deserved reputation for bringing new life to mainstream classical repertoire with performances that build on a vivid use of instrumental colors and explosive bursts of energy supplied by his virtuosic Heidelberg band. He may occasionally careen dangerously close to affectation in applying his clearly personal style, but it’s a welcome change to hear modern instrument performances so relevant to what we have learned from decades of authentic original instrument practice.

What makes this release even more interesting is that each of the three symphonies provides a different set of musical challenges, above all getting Haydn’s orchestral mass moving, and that is Fey’s supreme contribution here.

No. 82, nicknamed the Bear for a relatively tame but definitely grunting drone (reminiscent of music used in the 19th century, when the nickname originated, with music used for dancing bears) in the last movement, whizzes by almost before you know it’s gone. Lots of fun, and for once this symphony does not outstay its welcome.

The other two symphonies are of a considerably different magnitude: 88, notable for its being one of only two symphonies Wilhelm Furtwängler recorded commercially (the other No. 94 on HMV/EMI); and 95 – for the cello solo in the Trio of the Menuet. In 88, Fey takes the crucial slow movement, a series of restatements the one gorgeous, long-limbed theme, with a spacious, relaxed sense of poetry Furtwängler himself would have appreciated. And the two movements which follow, are more rollicking and virtuosic than the great Wilhelm ever imagined, with a big surprise in the Menuetto’s Trio.

As it should be, 95, in the dramatic key of C minor, is the high point of the three. In the first movement, Fey persuasively unites the disparate rhythmic and melodic elements (including some potentially very awkward triplets) into a powerful cascade of sound and fury. The wonderful slow movement is performed as it had been lifted out of one of the composer’s great string quartets, with the touches of piquant wind color just right. In the Trio, the unnamed solo cellist plays elegantly. if surprisingly predictably The last movement goes fast and light, an exciting conclusion not only to the symphony but to the whole disc.   

The sound is good but a bit wooden until you find just the right volume level for your system, when it opens up with a good sense of resonance and rich low bass (but be careful of going louder, since it may harden again).

– Laurence Vittes

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