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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony in G major, Hob.1: No. 100 Military (1793/4) [22:02]
Symphony in D major, Hob.1: No. 101 The Clock (1793/4)[27:12]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber* (1943) [20:00]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/*London Symphony Orchestra/Eugen Jochum
rec. Royal Festival Hall, London 30 January 1973, *23 June 1977. ADD
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4176-2 [71:58]
 


Eugen Jochum (1902-1987) was a welcome visitor to London during the last couple of decades of his career and on this CD we hear him with the two London orchestras with which he enjoyed fruitful collaborations.
 
He recorded all the ‘London’ symphonies of Haydn with the LPO for DG in the early 1970s and the present two performances took place around the time of some of those sessions. I haven’t heard the DG recordings but, on the evidence of what is presented here, that’s an omission I must correct. Nowadays Haydn’s symphonies are heard so often in performances either by chamber orchestras using modern instruments or by period instrument bands that opportunities to hear them played by modern symphony orchestras sometimes seem to be in danger of becoming as rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth. That’s a great pity for Jochum emphatically demonstrates here that “big band” Haydn can be stylish and satisfying.
 
So in the ‘Military’ symphony he builds the slow introduction to the first movement carefully before setting off on a carefree account of the allegro itself. In the Allegretto, which features the percussion contributions that led to the symphony’s nickname, he ensures the rhythms are lifted nicely and he shapes the phrases very well. It’s when the percussion play that the “big band” nature of the performance is most apparent. I love the smiling gait that Jochum imparts to the minuet and the finale bounds along with great zest.
 
His reading of the ‘Clock’ symphony is just as pleasing. I like the suspense in the first movement introduction and the allegro that follows it is fresh and lively. The slow movement, with its ticking clock ostinato, is graceful and the music is played affectionately. There’s just the right amount of weight in the minuet – but the performance is definitely not too heavy. I relished the excellent contribution of the solo flute in the trio. The finale is light on its feet. Here the LPO play with particular agility and drive.
 
Jumping forward some 150 years Jochum presents another good-humoured work in the shape of Hindemith’s cumbersomely titled but very clever Symphonic Metamorphoses. I first got to know this attractive and inventive piece from the inside a good few years ago when I took part in an orchestral study weekend directed by Music Web contributor, Arthur Butterworth, which featured this piece among others. It’s a brilliant orchestral showpiece and very ingenious and resourceful in its use of the orchestra. Jochum, aided by the individual and corporate virtuosity of the LSO, gives a splendid account of it. I wouldn’t normally associate him with Hindemith’s music but in his interesting liner note David Patmore relates that when Jochum was working in Hamburg from 1934 onwards he courageously programmed music by Hindemith and by other composers whose music had been banned by the Nazis.
 
The first movement exhibits great vigour here. There’s a lot going on in the score but Jochum ensures there’s clarity in the playing. The scoring in the ‘Turandot Scherzo’, which comes next, is even more teeming with complexities. However, Jochum and his players bring out a good deal of the detail. The fugue for the brass (4:09 – 5:13) exemplifies the excellent work done by this section of the orchestra during this movement. Towards the end of this particular passage – and elsewhere in the work - there’s some thrillingly incisive playing from the LSO’s timpanist. The Andantino third movement features some fine solo woodwind playing, especially from the first flute near the end. The exhilarating finale is tremendously exciting and is crowned at the end by exultant horns.
 
Those who associate Eugen Jochum primarily with devoted, committed performances of Bruckner symphonies may be pleasantly surprised by this CD. The booklet includes a couple of engaging photographs of him, taken in rehearsal, where he’s smiling broadly and clearly enjoying himself very much. That happiness comes through consistently throughout these excellent performances. This is a highly entertaining CD, which I enjoyed immensely.
 
John Quinn

 

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