Georg Solti

Haydn: The London Symphonies Nos. 93-104

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Recorded between 1981 and 1992, Sir Georg Solti's mainstream performances with the London Symphony Orchestra of Haydn's 12 "London" Symphonies reappear after a long absence in this four-disc set. As might be expected, the playing is robust and energetic, and the resources of the modern orchestra are amply deployed. These, then, are not period performances, and Solti's interpretations are not especially Classical in flavor, for they strongly tend toward Beethoven in bluntness and vigor. Granted, the late symphonies reflect a real change of direction for Haydn, following his employment under Prince Nikolaus Eszterháza, and the new styles he absorbed in the 1790s also influenced Beethoven; so, arguably, Solti's slightly anachronistic presentation can be justified, if the period is considered broadly. However, a little of the LSO's homogenized sound goes a long way, and listeners who like their Haydn shaded with the timbres of original instruments may tire quickly of these readings. The most celebrated symphonies in this set are No. 94, "Surprise"; No. 101, "The Clock"; and, of course, No. 104, "London," but some of the most delightful music is in the underplayed works without nicknames, which deserve equal attention. Just be sure to try other renditions -- perhaps those by Harnoncourt, Mackerras, or the Hanover Band -- for a balanced perspective.

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