CD Review


© Chris Green, April 2009


  Adám Fischer

Haydn: Symphony No 22 in E flat minor (Philosopher)- No 24 in D major - No 45 in F sharp minor (Farewell).

Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra conducted by Adám Fischer.

Nimbus NI 5179

Haydn: Symphonys No 27 in G major - No 97 in C major - No 98 in B flat major.

Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra conducted by Adám Fischer.

Nimbus NI 5199

Haydn: Symphony No 96 in D major (Miracle) - No 102 in B flat major - Overture La fedelta premiata.

Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra conducted by Adám Fischer.

Nimbus NI 5135


Joseph Haydn died in 1809, in the same year that Felix Mendelssohn was born, and between them they managed to span three periods in the history of Western classical music. Haydn occasionally looked back to the baroque but was firmly rooted in the Classical period. Mendelssohn did both and yet at his death, the seeds of Romanticism were well and truly his own. So, for example, we can hear in his overtures such as The Hebrides, a story which is conveyed through the music in a very distinctive way.

Throughout Europe the anniversary of these two composers, as well as that of Purcell and Handel, is being celebrated this year, and the one thing that can be said for sure, is that there is no shortage of recordings of the repertoire, even though there may be certain genres which are in somewhat short supply; so, for example, there are few recordings of the music Haydn wrote for the baryton, and some of Mendelssohn's sacred music is not well represented in the recording catalogues as well.

On the other hand, there are plenty of recordings of Haydn's magnificent symphonies and oratorios, an area in which Mendelssohn is similarly well served. This review focuses on the music of Haydn, and two series stand out as being consistently interesting and generally well recorded and performed. On Nimbus, Adám Fischer conducts the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra for the symphonies recorded on location at the Esterházy Palace, Eisenstadt where much of Haydn's working life was spent. The Esterházy family seemed to have mixed views about spending their time in Vienna, and the Palace obviously provided the kind of home that they thought befitted their status, even if the musicians were of a different opinion, for it seems that they were isolated and with no homes to go to, that proved impossible.

The series has been in the catalogues for some time (although for a short spell they were unavailable when Nimbus Records experienced financial difficulties) and, depending what is your taste, the couplings combine the nickname symphonies with those without. For example, The Miracle Symphony (No 96) is coupled with Symphony No 102 (Nimbus NI 5135), whilst an early and two late symphonies are combined with Nos 17, 97 and 98 (Nimbus NI  5199). The Philosopher and Farewell together with the Symphony No 24 feature on a third release (Nimbus NI 5179).  The overall result is a series where the stated intention of recording Haydn's major works in the Summer and Winter Palaces of the Esterházy family is well and truly served, and the performances seem to have drawn strength from the location. By the way, do listen to the symphonies that do not have a nickname, for they are often the most rewarding and yet have suffered from concert promoters' lack of interest.

Next time it will be the choral music by Haydn which, the better I get to know it, the more enjoyable it becomes.