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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Joseph Haydn - Symphonies Nos. 6-8, 30, 31, 45, 53, 59, 60, 69, 73 & 105 (Nikolaus Harnoncourt)


Composer: Joseph Haydn

  • (01-04) Symphony No. 6 in D major "Le Matin", Hob. I/6
  • (05-09) Symphony No. 7 in C major "Le Midi", Hob. I/7
  • (10-13) Symphony No. 8 in G major "Le Soir", Hob. I/8
  • (01-03) Symphony No. 30 in C major "Alleluja", Hob. I/30
  • (04-07) Symphony No. 53 in D major "L'impériale", Hob. I/53
  • (08-11) Symphony No. 69 in C major "Laudon", Hob. I/69
  • (01-04) Symphony No. 31 in D major "Horn Signal", Hob. I/31
  • (05-08) Symphony No. 59 in A major "Fire", Hob. I/59
  • (09-12) Symphony No. 73 in D major "The Hunt", Hob. I/73
  • (01-04) Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor "Farewell", Hob. I/45
  • (05-10) Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor "Farewell", Hob. I/45
  • (01-03) Piano Concerto No. 11 in D major, Hob. XVIII/11
  • (4) Il mondo della luna (The World on the Moon), opera buffa, Hob. XXVIII/7: Overture. Allegro
  • (05-07) Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major, Hob. I/105
  • (08) Dice benissimo, Hob. XXIVb/5
  • (09) Un cor si tenero, Hob. XXIVb/11

Herbert Tachezi, piano (CD5 1-3)
David Reichenberg, oboe; Milan Turkovic, bassoon; Erich Höbarth, violin; Christophe Coin, cello (CD5 5-7)
Thomas Hampson, baritone (CD5 8, 9)

Concentus Musicus Wien
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

Date: 1987-1993, 2003 (CD5 8, 9)
Label: Teldec



After his idiosyncratic Teldec series of Haydn and Mozart recordings with the Concertgebouw, Nikolaus Harnoncourt now gives us two of Haydn's most original symphonies from the early 1770s using his own period-instrument orchestra. The playing of the Vienna Concentus Musicus is first rate, with a touch of asperity in the string tone that may be more authentic than the smoother sound now cultivated by most British early-instrument groups. And Harnoncourt's characteristically challenging way with these symphonies ensures that the performances are anything but dull. But you may well find them a bit disconcerting. He brings a pounding energy and aptly raw sonorities to the opening of the Farewell; but, as in some of his Concertgebouw recordings, there is a crucial lack of rhythmic resilience, with a pervasive emphasis on the first beat of the bar. And he indulges in a typical stroke of perversity at the centre of the movement, slowing down outrageously for the lyrical D major melody. Haydn has already ensured that this theme contrasts on every level with its turbulent surroundings, and as played here it sounds as if it had drifted in from another work.

In the slow movement, with its spare two- and three-part writing, Harnoncourt is characteristically scrupulous in his attention to phrasing and texture: too scrupulous, for his fastidious shaping of individual details is often to the detriment of the longer line. With a speed that is distinctly rapid for an Adagio the movement sounds arid and finicky. As for the minuet, his interpretation of Haydn's Allegretto here must be the fastest ever. With a tempo more appropriate to the scherzo of Schubert's Ninth Symphony he makes the brisk Pinnock/Archiv Produktion performance I reviewed in September seem almost soporific by comparison. Not surprisingly, Harnoncourt slows down drastically for the trio; and to my ears the overall effect is almost ludicrous. The finale, on the other hand, is free from notable idiosyncracy, except perhaps in the unusually smooth, subdued treatment of the opening theme; the Presto, though not unduly driven, generates a fine, fiery intensity, and there is some especially poised and delicate solo playing in the programmatic concluding Adagio.

Symphony No. 60 is a dizzily eccentric, sometimes hilarious six-movement concoction that began life as incidental music to a French farce, Le distrait (''The absent-minded man''). Symphonic coherence is less of an issue here, and Harnoncourt's moments of waywardness are arguably in keeping with the music's spirit. But though he brings plenty of vigour and colour to the score (the tuttis are excitingly brazen), his underlining of Haydn's rude contrasts in the Andante with wilful changes of tempo and his monumental slowing down towards the end of the fourth movement Presto, seem to me to diminish rather than heighten the music's humour. And by taking the trio at twice the speed of the minuet he not only threatens the movement's structural unity but makes the trio sound breathless and febrile, rather than comically mysterious as Haydn surely intended.

As usual Harnoncourt is generous to the point of lavishness with repeats, stretching the timing of each symphony to over half an hour; and unlike most other period-instrument groups in this repertoire his orchestra does not include a harpsichord continuo, an omission I myself do not lament. The recording is excellent, both atmospheric and detailed (though I would have appreciated more of the horns' baleful glare in the outer movements of No. 45). One person's exasperation may, of course, be another's enlightenment; but I'd advise all but the most avid Harnoncourt devotees to sample this disc before purchasing.

-- Richard WigmoreGramophone
reviewing Teldec 44198 - Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 45 & 60

More reviews:
Nos. 30, 53 & 69:
Nos. 31, 59 & 73:


Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the piano trio and his contributions to musical form have earned him the epithets "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". Haydn's work was central to the development of what came to be called sonata form. At the time of his death, aged 77, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Haydn was a friend and mentor of Mozart, a teacher of Beethoven, and the older brother of composer Michael Haydn.


Nikolaus Harnoncourt (6 December 1929 – 5 March 2016) is an Austrian conductor, particularly known for his historically informed performances of music from the Classical era and earlier. His repertoire also include composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Harnoncourt was a cellist with the Vienna Symphony from 1952 to 1969. In 1953, he founded the period-instrument ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien with his wife, Alice Hoffelner. Harnoncourt later performed with many renowned orchestras that played on modern instruments. He was also the author of several books.


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