Marc Minkowski / Les Musiciens du Louvre - Grenoble

Haydn: 12 'London' Symphonies

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Listeners looking for period instrument performances of Haydn's "London" symphonies might consider this set with Marc Minkowski leading Les Musiciens du Louvre, Grenoble. A well-respected period instrument conductor, Minkowski leads light and lively performances with propulsive rhythms, fleet tempos, clean textures, and clear developments. Les Musiciens are a fine small band with sleek, supple strings, pungent yet pliant winds, bold but blended brass, and a balance that lets every line be heard in just the right proportion. Taken on its own, this set would be a fine introduction to these epoch-making works. In the context of previous recordings, however, this set is not really near the top of the pile. Among period instrument performances, the release with Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century is just as well played but with more character, while the version featuring Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande has more energy and more thrust. Of the modern instrument performances, the list is so long that it is only possible to mention such classics as the versions with Beecham, which is noble and exhilarating, and with Szell, which is strong and forceful. Recorded in bright, colorful digital sound, Minkowski's set is admirable but limited, and by no means the finest available.

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