Symphonies 94 & 101 / Haydn Variations Import
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|1. Symphony No. 94 'Surprise': I. Adagio cantabile - Vivace assai|
|2. Symphony No. 94 'Surprise': II. Andante|
|3. Symphony No. 94 'Surprise': III. Menuetto e trio: Allegro molto|
|4. Symphony No. 94 'Surprise': IV. Finale: Allegro di molto|
|5. Symphony No. 101 'Clock': I. Adagio - Presto|
|6. Symphony No. 101 'Clock': II. Andante|
|7. Symphony No. 101 'Clock': III. Menuetto e trio: Allegretto|
|8. Symphony No. 101 'Clock': IV. Finale: Vivace|
|9. Haydn Variations|
In 1961, at age 86, Pierre Monteux was appointed chief conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra on a 25-year contract. It was typical of his sense of humour that he chose to sign a contract of this length at this time in his life, but there is no doubt that the brief period he enjoyed with the LSO - he died three years later, in 1964 - was one of the most remarkable Indian summers enjoyed by any conductor. Here reissued are absolute classics of the recorded oeuvre, in absolutely sublime sound and with a real degree of punch that informed the "Decca" sound of the 1950s-70s. For all the historically-informed, so called 'authentic' recordings of Haydn, the Monteux/Wiener Philharmoniker synthesis is one of absolute magic. And deeply felt, expertly paced, are the Brahms Haydn Variations. *** 'there are no more wittily enjoyable performances of these two symphonies in the catalogue. The recordings were considered demonstration-worthy in the early stereo era [Haydn] (Penguin Guide) *** 'riveting .. The orchestral playing is excellent at the vigorous style gives the music a splendid forward impulse: the listener is gripped from first bar to last' [Brahms] (Penguin Guide) 'The VPO play with spirit and finesse and are obviously enjoying themselves. Of course the 'Surprise' comes off with a splendid bang and the tick-tack of the clock is deliciously droll, the violins wonderfully elegant. But sample, too, the swing of the fast Minuet of No. 94, the slow spacious introduction of No. 101, or the fizzing zest of both finales, which still have just the right degree of weight. There are surely no more enjoyable performances on disc (and I am not forgetting Beecham, Dorati or Sir Cohn Davis). Yet what makes this reissue even more treasurable is the inclusion of Monteux's thrilling LSO account of the Brahms Haydn Variations' (Gramophone)
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Monteux produced a performance for the ages. Get it!
Both of these two Eloquence discs are considerably improved as sound over their last appearances, not just the originals I hasten to add, and now offer sound that is completely enjoyable and satisfying in modern terms. That lets the listener enjoy the music making that is typical of Monteux in his prime.
Monteux was a string player before becoming a conductor and always maintained that the experiences gained by playing second violin at the Folies Bergeres whilst still a student was invaluable in the way it instilled in him an understanding of the importance of the relationship between dance and rhythm. This may seem obvious but one has only to compare the light touch that Monteux applies with many of the following generations to realise that such instincts do not come so easily and that maybe there are not so many opportunities to learn them first hand these days.
No matter ...! What does matter is that this disc displays this crucial characteristic almost constantly. Both Haydn symphonies dance lightly and at tempi that would not offend modern period enthusiasts. There is no sense of hurry but just a joy in music making 'on the hoof' so to speak. Much of Haydn's compositional and social life was associated with the idea of the dance and it is totally appropriate that these two symphonies should reflect that.
The Brahms, a heavier work, is still given a light touch and the variations have a 'lift' that can make others seem relatively earthbound. This is nothing to do with sheer speed. It is to do with phrasing and an ear for textures and rhythms that will dance.
I would suggest that this is rather a special disc that shows how well in tune with current performing practice Monteux was before such things were even being considered.
This is a joyful disc and will give joy. As such it deserves to be considered by anyone interested in the program and is an example that a good record will always be a good record provided it stays true to the inherent nature of the music it enshrines.
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.
In case there is any viewer who aren't too familiar with the conductor, he was a fellow violin student with Thibaud-- presumably the greatest French violinist ever-- and he was good enough to share a first prize with the latter. He then became an orchestral violinist, and then a member of a string quartet before taking up the baton!
I would, nevertheless, suggest viewers to check out Eugene Jochum's 12 London Symphonies by Haydn-- DG boxset of 5 CDs, performed by London Philharmonic and Bayerischen Rundfunks-- alongside the great conductors mentioned in the other review. These are great music in nice stereo recordings recorded mainly in the 60s with some in late 50s and some in early 70s. They are absolutely worth your while.