Bernstein's Great Recordings of Haydn's Paris Symphonies
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 08/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am surpised Sony hasn't reissued this marvellous set, and omit Prince Charles' mediocre watercolors. The exceptional quality of these performances should speak for themselves. With the notable exception of a period instrument set from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment, these recordings are simply the best I have heard of Haydn's "Paris" symphonies, easily eclipsing those recorded by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Incidentally these were the recordings which made Bernstein's reputation as one of our foremost interpreters of Haydn. Much to my surprise, they lack Bernstein's idiosyncratic exuberance. The sound quality remains first rate, thanks to Sony's latest image-bit digital remastering. Those looking for a definitive set of Haydn's "Paris" symphonies should look no further."
Bernstein and Haydn -- Our Men in Paris
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 08/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While there are dozens of recordings of Haydn's "London Symphonies," there are only a handful of major-label titles of the "Paris Symphonies." And this version by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic has to be counted among the very best. Critics like to say that Haydn is a musical comedian of sorts. I don't know if I would go that far, but his symphonies are jovial, light, carefree and thoroughly enjoyable. However, there is one thing I find funny about this release (and the "Royal Edition" concept) -- why Sony Classical thought it could sell more Bernstein CDs by using mediocre watercolor paintings by Prince Charles as the cover art. Bernstein discs don't need to rely on marketing gimmicks, the quality of the music sells them just fine."
RaleighObserver | Eastern USA | 04/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've had these performances since they first came out on LP. I was not a great Bernstein admirer in those days, but these got such great reviews I decided to risk it, and I'm glad I did. These are stellar renderings of 6 symphonies, each presented coherently and with drama, joy, bounce, grace, lyricism and exhuberance, and without any of Bernstein's eccentricities. The New York Times heralded him as the best Haydn conductor of his generation, and they were awfully close to correct.
The surfaces of Haydn's later symphonies are so smooth, the pieces almost play themselves so well, that it's easy to assume they're one-dimensional. But, like the symphonies of Mozart or Beethoven, they abound in telling detail and emotion, and have a depth that can't necessarily be captured by one conductor. We learn different things about each symphony when we hear it performed by Bernstein, Beecham, Scherchen or Jochum, or (in the newer school) Thomas Fey or Sigiswald Kuijken (amongst those with complete sets of symphonies, not to mention Furtwangler, Walter or Fricsay amongst those who don't).
Bernstein's performances neither look forward to Beethoven nor backward to C.P.E. Bach. His Haydn exists on his own terms, and there's a boldness to these symphonies which makes it easy to see why Haydn was so admired. This is not, in general, polite music, at least not as Bernstein conducts it. He will have you listening intently, not playing it in the background. The last movement of #82 bounces and lunges, the second movement of #86 is mystical and searching in its modulations, the second movement of #84 sings its beautiful melody from the NY Philharmonic's cellos with just the right amount of passion and subtlety I could go on, but you get the point. Bernstein, at this point in his career, had earned a reputation for revealing telling details and structures that others didn't, and he puts this "educational" intention in service of his impassioned musicality. There is an unerring sense of rightness in each of these performances.
I hope Sony republishes these performances soon; they're too good to be left out of the catalog. Until then, find one on amazon's marketplace. Enjoy!"