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Hermann Scherchen: 1950's Haydn Symphonies Recordings
Franz Joseph Haydn, Hermann Scherchen, Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Hermann Scherchen: 1950's Haydn Symphonies Recordings
Genre: Classical
 

      
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Benchmark Haydn Recordings
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 07/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"DG Westminster has really done themselves proud with this superb release: ALL of Scherchen's incisive and expressive Haydn symphony recordings in excellent transfers. I have the original LP versions and can say that these transfers are excellent save for a momentary slip in pitch in the first mvt. of 96. I have heard persistent rumors of late that DG is going to discontinue its Scherchen series. If so, at least they have given us a most memorable "swan song" here.My entry into the world of Scherchen's Haydn was the purchase, some thirty years ago, of Westminster LP WL 5206, which coupled #44 ("Trauer") and #49 ("La Passione"). These "sturm und drang" symphonies bowled me over then and they still do: Scherchen's eloquence in these works remains unsurpassed. Since then I have made some effort to hear any number of newer recordings by the likes of Weil, Fischer, Goodman, Hogwood, Bruggen, Kuijken et al. Here and there I found a likeable, stylish performance - but somehow they all lacked the keenly inquisitive Scherchen touch and the sheer joy of discovery that permeates these older recordings. In the later works I have found Jochum to be well-played but rather unimaginative, while the Colin Davis London Symphonies on Philips have a sort of fatuous energy that I find a bit tiresome.It's been said that you have to risk the ridiculous in order to achieve the sublime. Here and there Scherchen adopts a seemingly indefensible tempo - either blisteringly fast or lugubriously slow - and it works out better in some instances than in others. His "Largo" in #88 is even slower than Furtwangler's - but somehow it coheres beautifully. One of the most delightful performances in this set is #45 "Farewell," in which the musicians depart one by one during the last movement. On the one occasion that I heard this work "live," the players all had candles on their music stands that were snuffed out as they departed. That visual correlative is impossible to achieve on a recording, so instead Scherchen has each of his players whisper "Auf Wedersehn" as they leave the stage. It's utterly charming. Scherchen also recorded a lovely #48 for Ultraphon (not included here) that can be found on a Tahra CD set.Here and there I have co-favorites in these symphonies, such as Rosbaud's 92, Fricsay's 98, Matacic's 103, and Woldike's 99-104. But as an entity, these Scherchen readings can hold their own against all comers. They are the inspired legacy of a remarkably penetrating and adventurous mind.Highest recommendation."
Brash and Gutsy Haydn Performances
T. Beers | Arlington, Virginia United States | 07/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Back when almost all conductors favored a lush and warm big band sound for Haydn, that fascinating maverick Hermann Scherchen opted for a much leaner, grittier performance style. As a result, Scherchen's 1950s Westminster Haydn recordings, seen with the benefit of hindsight, seem to foreshadow the preferences of today's period style conductors like Norrington and Harnoncourt. But however you view them, these recordings still sound refreshing today because of the rhythmic vigor and drama Scherchen consistently projects. In fact, no other conductor so persuasively establishes the linkages between Haydn and Beethoven as Scherchen does, but without forcing Haydn into an anachronistic Beethoven sound world. For this reissue, Deutsche Grammophon's Emil Berliner studios have excellently re-processed Westminster's master tapes (mono, with one exception) and the resulting CDs are astonishingly vibrant considering that the masters are about 50 years old. As with all Scherchen recordings, expect some hell-for-leather tempos and ragged ensemble ... Scherchen was not at all interested in manufacturing sterile, well-manicured artifacts in the recording studio, and this is raw, not elegant, Haydn playing. The laendlers and minuet movements in particular postively burst with elemental energy, eloquently revealing this so-sophisticated composer's rural origins (in the Austrian Burgenland) and peasant roots. Really unique music-making!"
Glorious, absolutely fabulous Haydn
Jeffrey Lee | Asheville area, NC USA | 08/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Beecham might be charming and witty and Szell might be nicely precise and sparkling, but Scherchen's Haydn resonates from its own planet. It is rich, caring and soulful---the kind, I feel, that provides deep and lasting satisfaction. The level of quality in these interpretations is never in question. For example, as the first movement unfolds in Symphony 49 ask yourself if you've ever heard Haydn played so marvelously, with this sort of depth and noble feeling. Then revel in the rhythm and rich texture of the second movement, the wonderfully tuneful, striding expression of the third and finally the attractive vibrancy of the short lived final movement. If this performance doesn't move you or give you real satisfaction I don't know what will.

There are many moments in this set where string work in particular is articulated with telling and beautifully shaped detail. In Symphony 92 ("Oxford") an absolute rightness prevails with respect to Scherchen's musical compass, especially in the second movement. In Symphony 88 the largo may be slow, but listen to the heartfelt expressiveness elicited by the conductor. Next, hear the magical weaving of melody he displays in the menuetto, and lastly, the joie de vivre he invests the finale with.

Another area where Scherchen excels is in dynamic shading and power. Symphony 93 is exemplary here and so is the conductor's passion....Scherchen also enhances nicely the wonderful air of stately sentiment that illuminates Symphonies 99 and 104....And the plaudits go on. By the way, the sound is quite fine.

While this set obviously will not entirely satisfy every purchaser or would be purchaser, including some of those great Haydn lovers, I consider it an extremely gratifying collection. There are some moments where I might prefer a slight touch of the characteristic Szell or Beecham approaches. But, I think I could live solely and quite easily with Scherchen's committed performances for an indefinite period of time. Not many conductors can offer such consistent quality in so fairly wide a range of symphonic output. If I were you I wouldn't wait to let this one lapse into discontinuance."