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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 2007
Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Michael Rast
Release date: February 2009
Total duration: 23 minutes 48 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 94 in G major 'Surprise'
first performed on 23 March 1792

Andante  [6'07]

Other recordings available for download
The Hanover Band, Roy Goodman (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Premiered in Salomon’s concert on 23 March 1792, Symphony No 94 was the sensation of the season, thanks above all to the fortissimo chord that disrupts the pointedly naïve theme of the Andante. (In German-speaking countries the ‘Surprise’ is known as Die Sinfonie mit dem Paukenschlag—‘with the timpani crash’.) Haydn had added this as an afterthought, allegedly remarking to the composer Adalbert Gyrowetz, who had visited him while he was composing the symphony, that ‘there the [sleeping] ladies will jump’. A London newspaper, The Oracle, put it rather more poetically: ‘The surprise might not unaptly be likened to the situation of a beautiful Shepherdess who, lulled to slumber by the murmur of a distant Waterfall, starts alarmed by the unexpected firing of a fowling-piece.’ However you hear this big bang, the variations that Haydn weaves on his nursery tune are delightfully inventive, encompassing a turbulent ‘developing’ variation in C minor, an ethereal descant for flute and oboe, and a coda that transfigures the theme with dusky harmonies over a sustained horn pedal.

In the eighteenth century G major was the pastoral key par excellence. And both the first movement and the minuet share the Andante’s bucolic associations. Typically, though, alfresco vigour is allied to a concentrated complexity of argument. In the first movement the floating repeated notes and rising chromatic lines of the slow introduction become vital ingredients in the bouncy 6/8 Vivace assai. This initially pretends it is in A minor rather than G major, an ambiguity that Haydn exploits throughout the movement, above all at the nonchalant start of the recapitulation. Only towards the end of the recapitulation, after what is in effect an intensive second development, is the fragile main theme allowed to reach a rounded conclusion. As the reviewer in the Morning Herald aptly remarked, ‘the subject … was remarkably simple, but extended to vast complication’.

The Allegro molto minuet is the fastest and lustiest in all Haydn’s symphonies, a rustic German dance complete with ‘oompah’ accompaniment—though, characteristically, the second part becomes more involved, with its irregular phrases, casual touches of counterpoint and recurrent three-note figure. The delicate trio features the favourite Haydnesque colouring of violins shadowed at the octave by bassoon. By now Haydn was renowned for the coruscating brilliance of his finales. But this one, a sonata-rondo launched by one of his catchiest tunes, arguably surpasses all his symphonic finales to date in its virtuoso handling of the orchestra, its harmonic drama and its comic brio. The timpani roll that batters the music into the alien key of E flat in the coda is a far more potent surprise than the Andante’s famous Paukenschlag, and the kind of coup de théâtre that left its mark on the young Beethoven.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009

Other albums featuring this work
'Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95' (CDH55126)
Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55126  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining  
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1' (HYP12)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1
This album is not yet available for download HYP12  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  

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