Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor Rebecca Miller, Conductor
Rebecca Miller, Conductor
Haydn Symphonies 52, 53, & 59

HAYDN Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59

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David Threasher
SIGCD434. HAYDN Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59HAYDN Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59
HAYDN Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59

Symphony No. 52
Symphony No. 53, 'Imperial'
Symphony No. 59, 'Fire'
Selected comparisons
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Rebecca Miller has already proved her credentials at the more angsty end of the 18th-century symphony with her Editor’s Choice CPE Bach disc (5/15). Now she turns to the first manifestation of the Berlin Bach’s influence in a pair of works in Haydn’s Sturm und Drang style, plus one from a little later.

These are endlessly fascinating symphonies, symptoms of Haydn’s isolation at Eszterháza – the grand palace that Prince Nicolaus ‘The Magnificent’ built on a Hungarian swamp – and his furious innovation in orchestral and compositional technique. The Fire Symphony (late 1760s) crackles away with tremolando strings and hysterical horns, while the C minor work, No 52 (early 1770s), majors on the stark, Gluckian language Haydn was injecting into his symphonic writing at that time, complete with neo-Baroque falling diminished seventh figures and sudden extremes of dynamics. Miller fields a well-drilled string band of 24 players and allows her horn players off the leash to provide all the effects Haydn dreamt up for them – especially in the glorious high registers of the Fire Symphony.

No 53 comes from towards the end of the 1770s, when Haydn was cultivating a more consciously ‘entertaining’ style, and it is this work that is most successful on this disc. Flute and timpani add to a larger palette of sounds and the grandeur of the work seems to suit Miller’s imaginative approach, with some especially effective phrasing. As a bonus, a second version of the finale (in fact the boisterous Overture, HobIa/7, also later adapted for Symphony No 62) provides a contrast with the more demure first version.

These admirable performances make a worthwhile addition to the catalogue of the often-neglected middle-period symphonies. Just for comparison, I turned to favourite recordings by Harnoncourt in Nos 53 and 59. There the Vienna Concentus Musicus throw themselves at this music with just a touch more abandon and Harnoncourt revels in Haydn’s effects just a touch more gleefully – even if he only offers the one finale for L’Impériale. Miller for some reason includes a harpsichord in No 59 but not in the others.

David Threasher, Gramophone Review - Haydn Symphonies
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