haydn oxfordRecently I received a new CD from teh Devil’s website of Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 91 and 92 (the “Oxford”), performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Rene Jacobs.  These renditions, on period instruments of course, are easily the fastest and most energetic I have ever heard in my life.  Puts old Papa in a completely new perspective.

Regular friends of the decanter know that Robbo spends a lot of pixels here bemoaning the wretched state of our decaying civilization.  One crumb of comfort, however, is the enormous advancement in musickal scholarship and performance technique made just since my misspent yoot.   I still remember very well all those records and tapes of Baroque and Classickal pieces being served up in a style more appropriate to Brahms or Saint-Saens – heavy, lugubrious, stiff.   I can well see how somebody who only ever heard Bach performed this way would reach the conclusion that he was simply mathematickal and boring.  I can also see how Haydn got the reputation for writing clunky “barnyard” minuets.

But since, oh, the mid-80’s or so, what an absolutely delightful proliferation of clean, sharp, vibrant performances!  In the earlies, it was just a few groups such as The Academy of Ancient Musick, the English Consort and The English Baroque Soloists.  These days, there are so many of them that I can’t keep track:  The above-mentioned Freiburg Baroque; Ton Koopman’s Amsterdam Baroque; Reinhard Goebel’s Musica Antiqua Köln  (I hated Telemann when I was a kid – it wasn’t until I heard their renditions that I understood what I had been missing); Parnassi Musici; The Brook Street Band; Cafe Zimmermann…..the list goes on and on.

Further, the growing number of specialized period instrument groups and the growing number of recording available from them would indicate to me, at least, that there is a market out there which appreciates this change as much as I do.

Anyhoo, if you are a fan of ol’ Papa who shares my period instrument enthusiasm, I think you’d like these performances.