Classical Music Consort presents HAYDN’S LONDON SYMPHONIES:Part Two reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Saturday, February 28, 2009, Knox College, Toronto.

Smiling players and heads in the audience moving in time to the music say “Haydn is fun”. And why not? The first movement of Haydn’s 94th Symphony opens with a lyrical passage in waltz time and builds up a gently rocking rhythm that glides on the smooth hum of low-register strings. The famous second movement is based on an eight bar tiptoe version of ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” disrupted by the “Surprise” Paukenschlag blast of timpani and brass intended to “wake the ladies and make them jump.” The four variations of the theme that follow also contain some stormy work from trumpets and timpani, and a notably charming passage of solos for oboe and flute. The raucous “Minuet and Trio” move quickly, approaching a jokey scherzo tempo, and stir up associations of elephants cavorting under the big top. The final “Rondo” is propulsive Haydn that concludes with the roar of a timpani solo that signifies the good time being had by all.

Haydn’s 97th Symphony is the last in his series of festive trumpet and drum symphonies.  In the manner characteristic of the “London Symphonies”, the 97th makes full use of every instrument section. Conductor Ashiq Aziz is able to exploit Haydn’s witty harmonic combinations and exciting effects even with his ensemble playing on modern instruments. The throbbing slow introductory material is nicely interwoven with repeats of the vivacious martial fanfare section and the lilting second subject in waltz time, with notable contributions from the bassoon and oboe. The slow movement introduced by strings and punctuated by woodwinds and horns is varied before a very satisfactory repeat in the minor key highlighted by the flute. Good humoured highjinks and the farcical runaround motions of comic opera colour the third movement and the “Finale.”

The profound effect on Haydn in London of news of the death in Vienna of his friend Mozart in December 1791 is contained in Symphony 98 in Bb. The slow introduction to the first movement, the unusual depth of feeling in the anthemic “Adagio” second with its moving cello solo, and the 11 measure solo of lilting keyboard arpeggios may all have reference to the passing of this “indispensable man.” Haydn’s grief, most starkly expressed in the second movement, is uplifted in the “Minuet and Trio” by the swinging sound of the trumpets and drums (omitted from the second), and in the triumphant “Finale.”

The Classical Music Consort under Ashiq Aziz is developing into an ensemble that reliably delivers a steady flow of pleasure. We have six more Haydn “London” Symphonies and the six Quartets of Opus 71 to look forward to this Spring and Fall in this series of Haydn Bicentenary Celebrations.

Comments are closed.