Haydn Symphonies: Recordings from The Itter Broadcast Collection 1952-1960

All the recordings presented here were made ‘off-air’ using a state-of-the-art tape machine. Subsequently they were archived on disc acetates – the tapes themselves being erased and reused. The performance of Symphony 103, conducted by Harry Newstone, is the only one for which the original tape survives. The discs were stored upright in a single location, they had probably never been moved or played, and so have survived more than 60 years in remarkably good condition. The original documentation, by both cataloguing and typed centre labels on each disc gives full details of the performers and transmission dates. Richard Itter was generous in not trying to fit too much music on each side – but rather less kind when it came to the abrupt fades on last notes and applause. Here is a rich smorgasbord of Haydn from a wide range of conductors : some reached back into the 19th century, some were the travelling maestros of their time, and some formed British Orchestras that enriched the diet of our nations musical life.



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If you're an out-and-out Haydn enthusiast like myself and don't mind old-school performances, then this 8CD set should fit the bill just fine…

What endears me to this collection are the number of less well-known symphonies scattered throughout… Scherchen paces the first two movements in a broad and stately manner, with the slow movement, especially, given weight and gravitas. The finale is invigorating and delivered with blazing intensity. Here, the composer teases the listener with irregularities of phrase and meter, and the virtuosic scale passages all add to the excitement and are wonderfully carried off. There's an uplifting sense of joy and celebration in the first movement of Symphony No. 30 in C 'Alleluja' with its quote from the Easter liturgy. The slow movement showcases a delightful flute solo, and the finale is an elegant minuet. Boyd Neel and his orchestra do themselves proud in this traversal from Christmas eve 1952.
…The 1956 performance by Geraint Jones and his orchestra is one of the highlights of the set. After the Adagio introduction to the opening movement, the music becomes vigorous and engaging. Jones is superb in the slow movement in the elegant way he contours the long phrases. The string sound is so warm and comforting. The fourth movement is played with lightheartedness and panache. There are two versions of Symphony No. 103, one features the London Mozart Players under Harry Blech (1956), the other is a later performance with Harry Newstone and the Haydn Orchestra (1959). Both are captivating readings and I'm hard pressed to choose between the two. However, the earlier performance is in slightly better sound, with greater depth and presence.
I need to say a word about the audio quality. Obviously allowances have to be made regarding the fact that these are live mono recordings from 1950s. I find them perfectly acceptable and the sound is pretty consistent throughout. Many of these conductors didn't leave us commercial recordings of these works thus, as a whole, these aural documents are of notable historical importance. Rob Barnett has provided some interesting biographical portraits of the conductors in the accompanying booklet.

Music Web International – Classical Review

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