Many French conductors are happy to avoid the Austro-German classics, but Monteux wasn't one of them. He wasn't much recorded in Beethoven or Brahms, yet he loved their music, which couldn't be said, I think, of Charles Munch, whose recordings of them are stilted and brisk. Monteux was almost a direct contemporary of Bruno Walter's, and his Haydn, as heard here from Vienna in 1959, is equally warm and yet lively. born in 1875, Monteux appeared befoe the public in 1887, so it's remarkable to hear him, as an octogenarian, giving us Haydn as he heard the music in his head. Both symphonies are chestnuts, the "Surprise" Symphony no. 94 never losing popularity, even during the dry postwar years for Haydn (his music didn't show off stereophonic sound like the 1812 Overture). Monteux delivers the surprise rather mildly - no one would jump out of their seats - but the Minuet has a nice lilt, not the heaviness one associates with traditional performance style. The finale is jaunty but not a speed racer.
Sym. 101 "The clock" is cut form the same cloth, and I imagine the only objection that could be raised is that these are mellow, civilized readings. The Vienna Phil., playing in the Sofiensaal with John Culshaw as producer (the same setup as for Solti's "Ring" cycle) is graceful but a trifle thin in the string sound, something I've noticed before in Decca recordings from the Fifties. but the chuckling woodwinds are as charming as ever. In his Haydn recordings Beecham was wittier more animated in his Allegros, yet Monteux's minuets are lighter on their feet.
The Brahms Haydn Variations, taped in London in 1858, display Monteux's style in Brahms, which was a trifle brisker than usual with no attempt at unearned profundity. this score is tossed in as filler to an infinite number of Brahms recordings, and no one wants another one, I suspect. Monteux's account didn't make a strong impression on me as Furtwangler, Barbirolli, and Klemperer do, but the reading is direct and forthright. In all, I enjoyed the program without finding it a must-listen. It will mostly appeal to those who already have an affectionate spot in their hearts for the great but unassuming Monteux.