The Alpha label's Haydn 2032 series, produced in collaboration with the Joseph Haydn Stiftung (or Foundation), may be optimistically conceived. It's hard to say in what form Haydn will be absorbed in 2032; a guess could be something like Neal Stephenson's Metaverse. Be that as it may, the series apparently will have a pair of organizing principles. The first is that individual programs will be loosely thematic rather than simply running in numerical sequence. Here, that idea doesn't work out so well. The title "Il Filosofo" or "Der Philosoph" for Haydn's Symphony No. 22 in E flat major, Hob. 1/22, seems not to have been Haydn's own and to have been derived later on from a superficially dialogue-like passage near the beginning. And it's hard to see how the other two Haydn symphonies on the album fit into the plan. But the news is better with the second principle, under which each album will combine several Haydn symphonies with one by another composer. Nobody has done this, and it works brilliantly here: the booklet expands on the notion of "originality," but the listener may well have already deduced that novelty is the reason for the rarely heard Symphony in F major for strings and continuo of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, composed in Dresden the 1730s or 1740s. It's an earlier work, but in its spiky melodic lines and experimental treatment of register it's easy to imagine that the young Haydn might have heard it. More broadly, the concept reflects how music might have been heard by audiences in the 18th century, when it wasn't yet clear that Haydn would emerge as the great. One looks forward to the pairings in future releases in the series. The rather old-fashioned silvery sound of the historical-instrument Il Giardino Armonio under Giovanni Antonini is clear and accurate, and generally this promises to be a Haydn series with fresh ideas.
Il Filosofo Review
by James Manheim