Harry Christophers / Aisslinn Nosky / Handel & Haydn Society

Haydn: Symphony No. 8 Le Soir; Symphony No. 84; Violin Concerto in A major

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This is the third in a series of Haydn releases by conductor Harry Christophers, in his post as leader of Boston's venerable Handel and Haydn Society in its new incarnation as a historical-instrument band. Each recording has included one of the "morning-noon-evening" symphonies (Nos. 6-8) and one of the "Paris" symphonies of 1784, with one of Haydn's rarely played violin concertos in the center of the program. There are strong points here: in the Violin Concerto in A major, Hob. 7a/3, soloist Aisslinn Nosky brings a lively tone that helps make the best case for this rather shapeless work (the concerto form, foreclosing Haydn's endlessly inventive monothematic development, was never his strong point). And the playing of the orchestra in the Symphony No. 84 in E flat major, Hob. 1/84 is clean. But sample the minuet to see how you like Christophers' rather mannered style. The Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra is rather large for a period-instrument group, and in the Symphony No. 8 in G major, Hob. 1/8 ("Le soir") it tends to overwhelm Haydn's delicate coloristic effects. Further, it's not clear why the same program needed to be done, in effect, three times; there are many other ways to put sets of Haydn symphonies together. For Christophers fans this will probably be a desirable purchase; others have a range of choices for Haydn, the recordings of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra being among the best on the historical-performance side.

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