Haydn: Symphonies Nos 92 & 93, 97 - 99 — London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis

by Anthony Kershaw on August 22, 2014 · 0 comments

in Classical Recordings

Sir Colin Davis (1927 - 2013) and the London Symphony Orchestra created great recordings over their 54 year association. His exceptional musicianship and his friendly relationship with orchestral players (he trained as a clarinettist) has made him a favourite with great orchestras like the LSO, Boston Symphony and Dresden Staatskapelle.

Davis finally got his most beautiful musical feather when he assumed directorship of the LSO in 1995 and held the post until 2006. From all accounts, the members’ admiration for him grew and grew.

Davis is famous for his interpretations of Berlioz, Sibelius, Haydn and Mozart as well as those of his famous countrymen, Benjamin Britten and Sir Michael Tippett. I could pick and choose fantastic recordings he has made of each of those composers — Berlioz with the Concertgebouw and Royal Opera House (ROH), Sibelius with the Boston Symphony, Mozart operas with the ROH and Haydn Symphonies with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO). It’s when you get to Tippett, where the LSO and Davis connect on record. Their traversal of his symphonies, operas and concert works are benchmarks, not only for performance, but as recordings much admired by audiophiles (Argo and Philips).

So, it came as a great disappointment to me that I have not been impressed by Sir Colin’s Indian Summer in the recording studio with the LSO. Whether a slack Sibelius set, unexciting Nielsen (and that’s quite something with The Inextiguishable), uninspired Bruckner, or this flaccid Haydn set, the circumstances surrounding these recordings make listening heavy going. Where is the ‘Sturm und Drang’, the elegance, the taut rhythms, and that most elusive marque of Haydn Symphony codas, stretto?

Just to remind myself of Davis’ brilliance in the recording studio, I played his incredible LSO recording of Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra and his seminal set of late Haydn Symphonies in Amsterdam. The staggering virtuosity displayed by the LSO on the Tippett CD is nowhere to be found on this new Haydn set and the flawless balances and gorgeous solo work from the RCO is missing from them, too.

What you’ll get are prosaic run throughs, with sloppy entrances and uninspired solo and ensemble work. No crackerjack LSO, here. Who knows why? Late nights in the studio, too many tours? In this Haydn set, the LSO sounds plain tired. A shame, as I was expecting a fine conclusion to Davis’ wonderful relationship with his favourite orchestra.

James Mallinson producer
Jonathan Stokes and Neil Hutchinson for Classic Sound Ltd sound engineers

Recorded live at the Barbican, Symphony 92 - 2 & 4 October 2011, Symphony 93 - 11 & 13 December 2011, Symphony 97 - 6 & 9 May 2010, Symphony 98 - 4 & 6 December 2011, Symphony 99 - 26 May & 2 June 2011
DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording

LSO LIVE LSO0702
[2 CDs/SACDs]

Playing time — 133:13

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