CDs / DVDs, 05. August 2012
Originally released between 1989 and 1994, these six discs with Hartmut Haenchen leading the Kammerorchester "Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach" contain 18 symphonies by Franz Josef Haydn blessed or cursed, depending on your point of view, with nicknames. It's a blessing because bearing a nickname seems to be the high road for audience recognition in the crowded world of the Viennese High Classical symphony. It's a curse because bearing a nickname means that instead of meaning everything suggested by the music, the work means the one thing suggested by the title. Be that as it may, these performances are stylish, elegant, evocative, supremely musical, and not the least encumbered by the nicknames. The Dresden-born conductor leads the Berlin-based modern instrument chamber orchestra in performances that sparkle but never superficially. Instead, Haenchen digs into what the music is really about, the aesthetic core of Enlightenment humanism that shines from first note to last. While there have certainly been other fine performances of these works -- one thinks of the excellent recordings by Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra and by New York's Orpheus Chamber Orchestra without a conductor -- these will stand near the top of any short list and should satisfy any fan of Haydn's symphonies, with or without nicknames.
Edel Classics early digital sound is cool, clear and fresh.
James Leonard