Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Latest Amazon Review

Haydn: Early London Symphonies
Haydn: Early London Symphonies
5.0 out of 5 stars Plenty to offer for those willing to listen..., May 20, 2009
By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
"There is a difference between the chaste sensuality of Mozart or Haydn and the lascivious sensuality of Richard Strauss. One cannot pour chocolate sauce over asparagus." George Szell

One of the greatest misconceptions about George Szell is that, while he was able to drill orchestras into incomparable playing, his interpretations were metronomic and lacked imagination. What a load of tosh.

Szell characterization of Haydn's Early London symphonies belies the notion of him as a cold-hearted autocrat. Note the bassoon "raspberry" in the slow movement of Symphony No. 93, or his handling of the "surprise" in Symphony No. 94 (for once, it sounds startling). Szell may not wallow in reckless rubato or allow his strings to exude syrupy vibrato, but there are many subtleties to be heard - for those willing to listen. Needless to say, the playing of the Cleveland Orchestra is peerless, not merely from the standpoint of hitting the right notes at the right time and faultless intonation, but that the various choirs of the orchestra are impeccably balanced. Clearly, these players have moved far beyond merely listening to themselves to listening to each other.

While all the works on this set were recorded at Severance Hall, which can sound dry even in modern digital recordings, that doesn't seem to be aproblem here. Dynamics, which were constricted, have been opened up. The strings have lost their aggressive edge and have a sweeter, more natural character. It says a lot about these recordings that they've hardly even been out of the catalogue since their initial release in the late 1960s. Many collectors may well have some, or all, of these symphonies already. Thanks to the improved sonics, it's well worth replacing the earlier issues of these recordings, and a must if you don't have them already.

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