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Hailing the Long-Overdue Arrival of Joseph Haydn

April 18, 1993|HERBERT GLASS

To judge by the enthusiastic reception given last month to the largest concentrated dose of orchestral Haydn in local memory--performances on the same weekend by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra--the question might arise whether the time is finally coming for this seemingly most accessible of composers.

Esa-Pekka Salonen led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program containing two symphonies, "The Philosopher" and "Drum Roll." Receiving a good deal less publicity, Lucinda Carver conducted her Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra in the nickname-less, but no less splendid, Symphony No. 89. Its audience, too, went delightedly wild.

It's too early to pinpoint precisely the reasons for this sudden approval--hardly restricted to Southern California--of a composer to whom the world has been curiously resistant.

One might guess that it had its beginnings during the 1991 Mozart bicentennial, when programmers gave unprecedented exposure to Haydn, intentionally or not, as an edgily Northern, intellectual counterbalance to the curvaceous, Southern sensuality of Mozart.

On recordings Haydn has been blessed as never before, with new issues and reissues of extraordinary stylishness appearing in hitherto undreamed of abundance, including the following, recently received marvels.

Twenty years ago Deutsche Grammophon issued a set of Haydn's so-called "London" Symphonies, Nos. 93-104, including most of the ones for which the composer is best known.

The conductor, leading the London Philharmonic, was 70-year-old Eugen Jochum, celebrated as a master of the heavyweight Teutonic repertory, notably Bruckner.

Jochum's Haydn, inflected with bursting tension, flying like the wind, with short bow strokes and invasive wind solos, proved heady stuff indeed, possibly setting the tone for today's "historically informed" Haydn.

DG has finally reissued the set (437 201, 4 CDs, mid-price), and even with the vast quantity of "scholarly" Haydn we've had since, the case as presented by Jochum and his willing (if sometimes hard-pressed) London players is every bit as convincing and invigorating today as on that first encounter a score of years ago. Not to be missed.

The cross-fertilization of Mozart and Haydn is nowhere more apparent than in Haydn's last three quartets, the two of Opus 77 (particularly the first, in G, with its dreamlike slow movement) and the unfinished Opus 103.

The three works, on a single disc (Nimbus 5312), are played with warm perceptiveness by the Franz Schubert Quartet of Vienna: neither too fat nor too lean in tone, with enhancingly applied, never over-insistent vibrato and a neat balancing of the extroversion and inwardness characteristic of this joyously deep music.

A tougher, leaner sound--and tighter recording acoustic--marks the work of an ensemble new to this listener, Britain's Maggini Quartet, on a new label from Norway, Simax (1075).

The Maggini plays three earlier scores that are hardly less reflective of the composer's endless variety than those from the end of his life, the present ones being from his Opus 33: No. 1 in B minor, No. 2 in E-flat, No. 5 in G.

This foursome suggests the Jochum approach: digging in with clipped, vaulting rhythms, while their interpretations subtly reflect a dark, more aggressive side to the Haydn psyche.

Haydn's piano trios are lighter works, more often than not piano sonatas accompanied--although in the final examples rather elaborately so--by the violin, with the cello merely filling in the bass.

The most familiar of the trios is one in G, No. 25 in the Hoboken catalogue, dating from 1795, the time of the last symphonies. And while in this and the other trios Haydn may appear more genial than profound, the little jolts--sudden modulations into distant keys, odd harmonic twists--are hardly infrequent.

Two programs of four trios each, with Hoboken 25 and 27 common to both, from two superb American ensembles can be recommended without hesitation: the Arden Trio, which adds Hoboken Nos. 16 and 18 (Channel Classics 9108), and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinstein Trio, who also perform Nos. 12 and 28 (Dorian 90164).

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