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Hyperion Records

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The Thames at Westminster by William James (1730-1780)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDS44371/4
Recording details: September 2008
Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Michael Rast
Release date: February 2009
Total duration: 28 minutes 13 seconds

'The Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana is finely honed and the rapport is evident, with unfailingly fine and musicianly playing' (Gramophone)

'Performances of the symphonies that are ultra-clean, pleasingly joyous and straightforwardly entertaining' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The orchestra is very well caught by the engineers, with ample bloom and no unnecessary or false highlighting of instruments. There is an excellent booklet by the ever-reliable Haydn expert Richard Wigmore and, best of all, Hyperion are offering the set at budget price, a little over £20.00 for four discs. I also like the fact that the works are all laid out in numbered order across the discs, unlike Bruggen and Davis, where the sequence is split up for some reason. The Davis cycle is cheaper and still an obvious rival but the sound is not as rich or detailed, and the Bruggen appears unavailable at present. It is a very crowded market but I reckon Hyperion deserve to do well with this one' (MusicWeb International)

'Sa splendide intégrale des Londoniennes … ces interprétations dégagent une extraordinaire vitalité' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

Symphony No 103 in E flat major 'Drumroll'
composer
first performed on 2 March 1795

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
‘The introduction excited deepest attention’, wrote the Morning Chronicle after No 103’s premiere on 2 March. With its initial timpani roll and its sepulchral theme on cellos, basses and bassoons (shades here of the Dies irae chant), this is the most mysterious, portentous symphonic opening before Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ and Beethoven’s Ninth. Haydn then proceeds to integrate the introduction systematically into the 6/8 Allegro con spirito. A fragment of the Dies irae theme flits by, transmuted into a blithe dance, just before the Ländler-ish second subject. At the heart of the development, after a grand pause, it makes a more theatrical appearance in its original deep bass register, like a spectre at the feast. Then, near the end of the movement, a series of apocalyptic orchestral crashes heralds another dramatic pause and a return of the introduction, complete with drumroll, in its original Adagio tempo. This is finally banished by the Dies irae theme in its dance transformation: at once a gleeful parody and a reinforcement of the symbiotic link between introduction and Allegro.

For his not-so-slow movement (Andante più tosto Allegretto) Haydn writes a set of ‘double’ variations on two related tunes, one in C minor, the other in C major, and both derived from Croatian folk melodies. Haydn gave the C major tune a more exotic gypsy flavour by raising its F naturals to F sharps, in the process aligning it more closely with the C minor tune. After the second major-keyed variation, beginning as delectable ‘toy soldier’ music and ending as an imperious march, a nostalgic reminiscence of the C major theme suggests a final envoi. Haydn, though, suddenly veers into E flat—the main key of the symphony—for a dramatic, modulating coda.

The swaggering minuet exploits and transfigures a traditional Austrian yodel, while the trio features graceful arabesques for clarinets, doubled by the strings (mindful, perhaps, of the limitations of his London players, Haydn tends to use the clarinets cautiously in these symphonies). Like the last movement of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’, the finale is designed as a true symphonic apotheosis. In a compositional feat extraordinary even by his standards, Haydn creates a movement of thrilling harmonic and contrapuntal drama from the bare minimum of material: merely a traditional horn call and a snatch of Croatian folksong.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009

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