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David Hurwitz, May 2012

The playing is lively and stylish. The various solos are expert: the recitative second movement of “Le midi” is aptly operatic but never ridiculously exaggerated, and the final “tempest” of “Le soir” has more bite and weight than most period-instrument performances ever manage…it’s easy to understand how this disc became a reference version in this music, and so it remains. © 2012 Read complete review

Gramophone, November 2010

BACH, J.S.: Great Choral Music (Munchinger) NC8802001
DVOŘÁK, A.: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9 / In Nature’s Realm / The Noonday Witch (Vienna Philharmonic, Ozawa) NC8802003
HAYDN, F.J.: Symphonies Nos. 6-8 (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Marriner) NC8802006
Oboe Concertos (Baroque) – BACH, J.S. / TELEMANN, G.P. / MARCELLO, A. / SAMMARTINI, G. / ALBINONI, T.G. / LOTTI, A. / BENJAMIN, A. (Holliger) NC8802005
Vocal Recital: Souzay, Gerard – FAURE, G. / POULENC, F. / RAVEL, M. / LEGUERNEY, J. / HAHN, R. / DUPARC, H. / GOUNOD, C.-F. (Melodies Francaises) NC8802007

Newton Classics is an attractively produced budget-price label that has been drawing musically worthwhile and technically well engineered material from the archives of Universal Music. I’ve already mentioned Karl Münchinger’s Bach B minor Mass which has appeared on Newton as part of a nine-disc collection of great Bach choral works (previously on Decca). The collection also includes the St John and St Matthew Passions, the Christmas Oratorio and the Cantata BWV10. Aside from Müncinger’s dependably solid and often musically sensitive conducting of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, there’s the singing, much of it of exceptional quality, especially in the St Matthew Passion whre Peter Pears is the Evangelist and Hermann Prey is Christus, with Elly Ameling, Marga Höffgen, Fritz Wunderlich and Tom Krause. Ameling is a welcome presence throughout the set which, for the most part, wears its years lightly.

Two symphonic reissues are well worth troubling over: Seiji Ozawa’s early-’90s set of late Dvořák with the Vienna Philharmonic especially, the Eight Symphony combining tonal warmth and impressive vitality, the New World well balanced and affectionately played. Also programmed are The Noon Witch, which is given memorably dramatic performance, and the concert overture In Nature’s Realm. I often feel that catalogue ubiquity has in the past rather worked against Ozawa, whose recorded output includes many gems, and the same might be said of Sir Neville Marriner. Take Marriner’s early digital CD of Haydn’s Morning, Noon, and Night symphonies, which is alert, refined, unostentatiously characterful and superbly played. Likewise, a collection of Baroque oboe concertos with Heinz Holliger as soloist, many again with the Academy taking part (also with I Musici): Bach, Telemann, Marcello, Sammartini, Albinoni and Cimarosa arranged into a concerto by Arthur Benjamin.

As to Gerard Souzay singing “Mélodies Françaises”, what praise can I offer that hasn’t already been more eloquently expressed elsewhere? Here is the finest French baritone post-Bernare and Panzéra in the song-cycles la bonne chanson (Fauré), Histoires naturelles (Ravel) and various “mini-cycles” by Poulenc. Souzay invariably sings most beautifully and his engagement with the various texts is a great source of joy while Dalton Baldwin provides near-ideal accompaniments.

The WSCL Blog, September 2010

This recording was originally issued on Philips in 1982; long out of print, it’s been reissued on the Newton Classics label. These three symphonies, nicknamed “Matin,” “Midi,” and “Soir,” were for all intents and purposes Haydn’s audition demo for Prince Paul Esterhazy, who was looking for a court composer. Just listen to these three little beauties and you’ll know why the Prince decided to hire this talented young man.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, September 2010

Although only one has that nickname, all of Haydn’s symphonies offer plentiful surprises. Their first audiences were delighted and amazed by them and they have the capacity to achieve that still, none more so than the present fascinating trio. Although they have nicknames they are not descriptive works in the detailed manner of, say, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The opening movement of “Le matin” depicts sunrise in a way virtually identical to that used much later in “The Creation”. The final movement of “Le soir” portrays a storm in a manner prefiguring the much more effective storm in “The Seasons”; otherwise there is little that justifies or explains the names given to them.

They were the first Symphonies that Haydn wrote for Prince Esterházy when he had been appointed as Vice Kapellmeister in 1761. This involved being in charge of the Prince’s private orchestra and holding regular concerts with them. In creating these three symphonies he achieved three important aims—he met (up to a point) the Prince’s liking for programmatic music and demonstrated his remarkable musical invention. He also gave opportunities for the players of his new orchestra to show off their abilities to him and, more importantly, to the Prince. It is this last feature that gives the works their most obvious individuality. In some movements one or two instruments are prominent throughout—the double-bass in the Trio to the Minuet in No. 7, for example. Other movements make a more subtle use of solo instruments. The flute, for instance starts the Allegro of the first movement of No. 6 but only rarely regains such prominence. The oboes and bassoon have important passages and the most surprising feature is the two bar lead into the recapitulation for solo horn alone—an extraordinary episode. In the slow movement there are long solo sections for violin and cello, the minuet brings a further and more extensive flute solo and the trio a bassoon solo, but the finale gives solos to almost every player. I could go through the other symphonies in the same way but I hope that this gives some idea of the variety of texture and focus that there is in such relatively short works. In addition—and possibly of greater importance—Haydn’s powers of musical invention are already on top form here, and there is never a dull moment for the listener.

These performances date from the period when Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields seemed to be at their busiest in the recording studio. Some of their issues may now seem more efficient than inspired but that is not the case here. Their usual extreme care over balance, phrasing and tone colour pays real dividends in these works. The clear and uncluttered recording allows all of Haydn’s invention to be displayed to full effect. A harpsichord is occasionally audible, but it adds little and when the same “improvised” decoration is heard three times in a row diminishing returns set in quickly. There is certainly a strong case for wanting to hear these works on period instruments when instrumental colour is such an important feature, but even if you have such a recording there should also be room in your collection for such a lively and well considered version as this.

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9:21:42 PM, 28 March 2015
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