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Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque – Haydn: Symphonies 88, 101 & 104 (2011) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque – Haydn: Symphonies 88, 101 & 104 (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.32 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDtracks | © Philharmonia Baroque

San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra celebrates its 30th Anniversary Season in 2010-11. Led by Music Director Nicholas McGegan since 1985, Philharmonia Baroque is recognised as one of the finest chamber orchestras, as well as one of the most exciting period instrument ensembles, in the country. This trio of Haydn symphonies displays the remarkably consistent quality and inventiveness of the composer’s output: from the clever and concise symphony No.88 to the humorous ‘Clock’ to the dazzling and sonorous Symphony No.104 (Haydn’s swan song to the genre), this superb collection bears eloquent witness to Haydn’s consummate mastery.

Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
Orchestra/Ensemble: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra


There are no finer period-instrument Haydn symphony performances available than these. Using a nearly 50-piece orchestra (thank God!), McGegan captures the music’s full grandeur as well as its intimacy. These players sound like a real orchestra, a group with a corporate identity, an attractive ensemble sonority, superb wind soloists, and, miracle of miracles, period strings that don’t sound like a den of dying cats. McGegan’s phrasing of the “clock” theme in the eponymous symphony’s second movement is a model of stylishness and wit–listen and I dare you not to smile.

His pacing throughout is ideal; allegros are swift but not so much as to blur characterful detail. The minuets are perfect; trumpets and drums cut through the texture without turning crude; tuttis really fill the acoustic space, and the dynamic range is aptly wide. No performance of these works follows Haydn’s dynamic markings literally, but McGegan’s adjustments flow with the music and invariably come across as natural–check out the finale of the “London” Symphony for some particularly telling examples.

The live sonics are generally very good, particularly given the fact that the recordings were made over a three-year period (2007-9). In Symphony No. 88 close miking makes the sound a touch rough in places, and I could do without the applause at the end of each work, but the audience otherwise is extremely well-behaved and extraneous performance noises are happily quite minimal. We need Haydn recordings like this: warm, humorous, affecting, yet fully cognizant of period scholarship and style. They are far too rare.

1 Symphony No. 104: I. Adagio – Allegro; II. Andante; III. Menuetto and Trio. Allegro; IV. Finale. Spiritoso 27:44
2 Symphony No. 88: I. Adagio – Allegro; II. Largo; III. Menuetto. Allegretto; IV. Finale. Allegro con spirito 19:58
3 Symphony No. 101: I. Adagio – Presto; II. Andante; III. Menuetto. Allegretto; IV. Vivace 27:27


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