Arion / Gary Cooper

Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 42, 49, 44

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While we may conceptually think of a symphony as a composition for a large number of musicians, such was not the case when Haydn, the so-called "Father of the Symphony," composed the majority of is 104 symphonies. Rather, his symphonies were composed for the smaller number of musicians (generally no more than two to a part) that were available to him, usually at the Palace of Esterház. Many modern recordings of Haydn's symphonies, even those incorporating period instruments, still use far greater forces than Haydn originally had at his disposal. This album by the Canadian early music ensemble Arion, led by the talented harpsichordist/fortepianist Gary Cooper, returns listeners to the time of Papa Haydn by using the proportions of instruments that Haydn himself would have used. Despite its small numbers, there is absolutely nothing small about Arion's sound, and its tone is as full and rich as an orchestra many times its size. The ensemble plays with remarkable technical precision, from the crisp, well-articulated strings to the clear, stratospherically high playing of the horns in Symphony No. 41. The three symphonies chosen for the program come from Haydn's middle period; numbers 44 and 49, both in rare minor keys, perfectly demonstrate Haydn's mastery of the concept of Sturm und Drang. Immediately enjoyable to everyone from novice listeners to those who think they've already heard all that Haydn has to offer, this disc is unreservedly recommended.

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