Franz Joseph Haydn, HAYDN: Symphonies Nos 45, 94 and 101

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The three most popular of Haydn’s many symphonies.

Several of Haydn's symphonies have acquired nicknames — the easier to tell the 100-or-so of them apart — and three of the most popular are gathered on this disc. The finale of the Symphony No. 45, “Farewell,” opens stormily but soon breaks off into a lilting slow movement. The instruments drop out one by one until only two violins are left to finish the symphony; legend has it (that phrase gets used a lot in writing about Haydn) that the musicians of the Esterhazy court orchestra were overdue for a vacation, and Haydn wrote this slowly disintegrating movement as a gentle reminder to their princely employer. The Symphony No. 94 was nicknamed “Surprise” for reasons which should be obvious to anyone upon hearing the second movement, with the most innocuous of tunes punctuated by a loud, rude full-orchestra chord. Ditto for the “Clock,” No. 102, in which the woodwinds tick steadily as accompaniment to the delicate music-box-like string melody. The full, boisterous sense of fun found all over Haydn's symphonies is well captured in Capella Istropolitana's performances.