How great to hear such responses and such variety. Uncle Dave is right about HvK, although I might add the words "slathered over." A paradox indeed for Landon, a man who had devoted his entire life and much of his family's money to promoting the authentic playing of Joseph Haydn. Haydn needs no defenders anymore. He has claimed his rightful seat in the pantheon of the few truly great composers.

As to taste: I think Dorati is overrated because he got there first–a lie Decca's muscled marketing team produced when the real winner of course was Ernst Märzendorfer pushed to the side because he recorded for a record club. Funny how those recordings are still in university and public libraries today. Plenty of people got to know Haydn's genius through these recordings. I'm told Märzendorfer remained bitter throughout his life at Dorati's cutting in line. The MHS recordings were made in 3 channel stereo, I believe. Their arrival on the "gray" market recently has come through some strangely transferred Haydn House recordings. Don't bite. 

As to favorites you really can't leave the historically informed movement out in the cold. Bruno Weil and Tafelmusik did some outstanding work for Sony. And as to the continuo vs no continuo debate; we can hear it at its most excessive extreme in the interrupted cycle on Hyperion by Roy Goodman and the Hanover Band or, with none at all on the Hogwood AAM interrupted cycle. James Webster (a leading Haydn scholar) leads the charge for no continuo, but hasn't, to my mind anyway, given a satisfactory answer to the question of what it was that Haydn did do if he wasn't behind the keyboard. In an era steeped in class and protocol he wouldn't have sat in the first chair and upstaged Luigi Tomasini. Haydn did play the violin passably well, but Tomasini was a leading player of the day and Haydn just wouldn't have pushed him down a seat. Haydn didn't conduct in the contemporary sense of the word. So what, Dr. Webster, was it indeed that Haydn did? Tap dance? Anyway, I like the Hogwood sets. The have some beautiful playing on them. Harnoncourt, his disciple Thomas Fey, Franz Brüggen. Not my cup of java although I must admit that Fey has the loveliest set of oboe players this side of the great divide, and he does work to restore a proper balance of winds and timpani with the strings (a main challenge in playing Haydn well). He just goes way overboard. Then there are those strange conducting tempo tics he picked up from Harnoncourt.

As to favorites because I sure as Hell digressed (symptom of working alone too often without other Haydn lovers to talk to): Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester put out an excellent set a few years ago of all the symphonies. You can still get it via Amazon dealers for $80. The individual symphonies all have applause at the end which is very irritating if you've decided to listen to a few works. The whole thing was done in a Mercedes Benz show room with inflatable walls to create the concert space (Yes, Dorothy, there's no place like this at home). I really like the set although no on one can do them all equally well. I also like some of what Adam Fischer did in his cycle, especially that he recorded it in the Esterházy music room and it sounds so good.

Historic recordings: Hermann Abendroth (88, 96) didn't do much, but what he did do was superb. Another day, another age. I still have a soft space for Leslie Jones and the Little Orchestra of London. Maybe because I first heard a number of the works through him. I really like everything that the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra did for DG. Lacking a conductor by choice, they're forced to really listen to each other. Eugen Jochum seems to have fallen out of favor lately, but I still like his London set. Kurt Sanderling has been a recent discovery and plays big-box Haydn with glorious élan. Try no. 82, the acid test for the "Paris" set. It's easy to get through Japanese dealers (Tower has it) and it's on the Denon label.

Well now, I've chattered away far too long and it's time to cut to the chase. Forced to pick one Haydn symphony recording for that fabled desert Isle, no question: George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra in no. 97 in C major. Played like this, with one voice in ensemble it shows us how incredibly powerful a composer Haydn was.

Thanks for asking and apologies to all for the novel length response.


On May 9, 2014, at 6:33 AM, David Lewis <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I have more "modern" tastes in Haydn -- I think Dorati's attempt(s) to
> record all of the symphonies contain some superb interpretations,
> particularly of my favorite,
> No. 93. The discs I have heard out of Adam Fischer's series for Nimbus with
> the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra were also outstanding. I can see why
> Robbins-Landon
> liked Karajan, as his recording of No. 49 is intense and dramatic, and this
> comes from a listener who can take or leave HvK.
> I have a friend, Greg Fernandez, who is a listener very well steeped in
> Haydn. I one made him a CDR of some very old recordings of Haydn. He was
> impressed by Toscanini's
> recording of "The Clock," but didn't like Beecham -- at all. We both agree
> that we could use more of Scherchen -- his recording of No. 45, "The
> Farewell," is something else!
> I think Haydn really is one of the greatest of all Western composers; works
> like "The Seven Last Words of Christ," his "Sunrise" (Op. 76/4) and
> "Fifths" (Op. 76/2) string quartets
> and some of the piano sonatas are daring and innovative beyond
> comprehension within their own era. The old notion of friendly "Papa Haydn"
> in his little wooden music shed,
> pumping out samey music for the prince like piecework from a sewing
> machine, does not come anywhere near his capabilities, nor what he actually
> achieved.
> David N. "Uncle Dave" Lewis
> Lebanon, OH
> On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 12:38 AM, Dave Burnham <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> I don't believe the Colin Davis set on Philips can be beat.
>> db
>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> On May 9, 2014, at 12:03 AM, Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>>> My favorite Haydn recordings are mostly from the 40s-70s Josef
>> Krips,Hermann Scherchen,Serge Kossevitzky,Eugen Jochum,George Szell,and all
>> those old guys,but as a whole Paavo Jarvi is my favorite modern
>> conductor.Here he is in the Haydn #84
>>>> Date: Thu, 8 May 2014 22:27:00 -0400
>>>> From: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Haydn
>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Thanks Alex. I don't listen to enough Classical period music to know
>> what I
>>>> like necessarily, but I know I don't like portentous. That's what came
>> to
>>>> mind from LB's #88 on DG, until the finale, which seems more engaged
>> than
>>>> the rest of the performance. On the flipside, #92 fairs better, but not
>>>> anything to treasure, IMO. Inner movements don't go anywhere; they're
>> played
>>>> the same at the end as at the beginning. I first encountered his Haydn
>>>> records in the mid-80s and thought: great, hopefully they play him like
>> they
>>>> play Gershwin. But I was disappointed. Three are in a give-away pile,
>> along
>>>> with the DG.
>>>> LB wasn't generally a stickler for textual fidelity and he wasn't always
>>>> well prepared. Orchestra's know this when they see it. According to one
>>>> biographer, he could be quite casual about some of his recordings.
>> Sessions
>>>> for short, war-horse pieces were sometimes noted on his calendar as
>> "shit."
>>>> They were said to be quick, barely-rehearsed sessions. When it worked,
>> the
>>>> spontaneity could be delightful. When it didn't, ...
>>>> They shouldn't have had any technical problems with Haydn, but the NYP
>> could
>>>> also be rather inconsistent. [<-Understatement.]
>>>> Who would you say does nail FJH in recent years?
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alex McGehee
>>>> Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2014 7:37 AM
>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitrop[olous was Dora Labbette, Soprano with
>> string
>>>> quartette:
>>>> Sorry for the delay, was working on deadline for another project. The
>>>> Bernstein performances have been widely praised, held up as models,
>> etc.,
>>>> but I can't board that train. The string playing is sloppy, intonation
>>>> questionable at times, especially in the "Paris" cycle. Now please
>> don't ask
>>>> me for specifics because I gave my sets away years ago. Unable to make
>> the
>>>> connection many others have made with the late Haydn symphonies
>> conducted by
>>>> Bernstein, I jotted down a few notes and was glad to have the empty
>> shelf
>>>> space open up. Sections in the outer movements were on occasion
>> especially
>>>> egregious for poor ensemble.
>>>> My favorite Bernstein/Haydn performance is on YouTube (don't have the
>> link
>>>> but it's easy to find) where Bernstein uses only his facial gestures to
>>>> conduct the VPO in the final movement of no. 88 in G major. It's a
>> "look Ma
>>>> no hands" moment of priceless peacock-ary, and of course the orchestra
>> can
>>>> play the piece superbly even with blindfolds on. Bernstein was truly a
>> great
>>>> man and he would have been the first to tell you so. I apologize in
>> advance
>>>> to his many fans for being a little harsh here, and on checking see
>> that I
>>>> still have his DG performances of 88 and 92.
>>>>> On May 6, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>>> Alex, I'm curious how you feel about Bernstein's Haydn performances.
>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>>>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alex McGehee
>>>>> Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 9:45 AM
>>>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitrop[olous was Dora Labbette, Soprano with
>>>>> string
>>>>> quartette:
>>>>> Hi guys,
>>>>> The Haydn literature is replete with spurious timpani parts and over
>>>>> the years they've gained a large group of devotees, never mind that
>>>>> Haydn never wrote them and had the resources available to do so. Maybe
>>>>> Haydn played the drums and that would cool off this simmering musical
>>>>> brew of yes-he-did, no-he-didn't continuo crowd led by James Webster of
>>>> Cornell.
>>>>> The German authorities (who must be obeyed): at the Joseph Haydn
>>>>> Institute in Köln, responsible for the complete edition of Haydn's
>>>>> work that got underway in the late 1950's. Why it's taken so long I
>>>>> can't go into detail here, but it's almost done, give or take another
>>>>> seven years. A scholar there has laid down a serious argument for
>>>>> several symphonies that don't really have high alt horns. I kind of
>>>>> like the symphonies that way and so did H. C. Robbins Landon (he had a
>>>> passion about them).
>>>>> The credo (within reason) must alway aim at the composer's original
>>>>> intentions which do include later revisions and authorized
>>>>> arrangements (like the flute and string instruments Johann Peter
>>>>> Solomon wrote out from Haydn's symphony scores). I enjoy the playing
>>>>> of the BPO with Karajan at times, but it's not Haydn. (And Landon
>>>>> thought it the gold standard)The wind and string parts are all out of
>>>>> balance and the timpani part (so important to Haydn when he actually
>>>>> wrote one) has trouble getting through. I'm not a cat gut wing-nut,
>>>>> just someone who likes these works served up with true balance and not
>>>>> overly controlled with spot mics. And don't get me started on
>> Harnoncourt.
>>>> Yikes!
>>>>> Alex McGehee