The first thing to note is that the Symphony No.90 has been transferred from a 15ips 2-track tape whilst the companion Trumpet Concerto has been transferred from a 4-track. Both these recordings were originally made by Westminster in 1958. I have to admit that they’ve passed me by over the years.
Scherchen made a number of distinguished recordings of the music of Haydn but the symphonic sequence with which I’m most familiar is 55, 80, 95, 97, 99, 100, 102, 103 and 104. Many of these were really excellent traversals and they are well thought of even today, certainly in the context of recordings made in the later 1950s and early 1960s. This recording of the C major then came as a novelty to me but it bears all the hallmarks of a committed, and textually clear Scherchen performance of the Classical repertoire. It’s especially good to hear the clarity of the two oboes and two flutes and the mobile Vienna bassoonists, buoyantly projected at a good tempo.
If you came to this Scherchen in this symphony after having heard the much later Dorati recording - from his complete edition of the symphonies with the Philharmonia Hungarica - you might be tempted to find Scherchen pedestrian. Then again, turn to the much more recent Adam Fischer and his Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra - also in a complete symphonic cycle box - and you’ll find that Scherchen resembles Fischer far more than the sometimes jog-trotting Dorati. Not without vehemence, Scherchen makes repeatedly good sense, draws out the distinctive Viennese winds in the Minuet, and brings vitality and energy to the finale.
I believe that the Trumpet Concerto recording has been reissued by Japanese Universal, but it makes good sense to have it here, given that it was recorded in the same year. The string sound is just slightly more acidic in this recording, but the trumpet tone is good, the slow movement remaining thoughtfully poised without becoming over-cooked. Roger Delmotte proves poised and assured in a dashing finale.
The transfers are excellent and using commercial tapes has proved advantageous. Naturally the disc’s timing is very short - but you’ll have to weigh that against the performance virtues.
Masterwork Index: Haydn symphonies