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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 82 in C major ‘The Bear’ (1787) [23:04]
Jean-Baptiste DAVAUX (1742-1822)
Symphonie concertante for two violins with patriotic airs (1794) [20:28]
François DEVIENNE (1759-1803)
Symphonie concertante No. 4 in F major for flute, oboe, bassoon and horn (1789) [21:03]
Chouchane Siranossian (violin)
Tami Krausz (flute)
Emma Black (oboe)
Javier Zafra (bassoon)
Nicolas Chedmail (horn)
Le Concert de la Loge/Julien Chauvin (violin)
rec. 2017, Louvre Auditorium, Paris; Jean-Baptiste Lully Conservatoire, Puteaux, France
APARTÉ AP186 [64:38]

This repertoire is not my usual territory, and I’m not sure what prompted me to choose it; perhaps it was the presence of two composers whose music was unknown to me. Whatever the reason, I’m very glad I did.

The Devienne receives its premiere recording here, but you would have to be very well versed in French symphonies of the era around the Revolution to know the Davaux. The Haydn, one of his Paris symphonies written two years before the overthrow of the Bourbons, is one of his most popular symphonies, though I admit to not being aware of how its nickname was derived. Apparently the rustic dance in the finale reminded a writer many years on of a “bear dance”, and when the symphony was re-published in the 1860s, that allusion had stuck. It was with some reluctance that I Googled “bear dance”, as I suspected it would lead to descriptions of animal cruelty, but as it happened, most references were to Native American dances, which I doubted were the source of the name. The symphony receives a marvellous performance here, with what seems an ideal blend of the elegant and the humorous sides of Haydn.

The symphonie concertante was very much in vogue in 18th century France, and Davaux wrote more than a dozen. This one is notable for its use of revolutionary songs, which would have undoubtedly helped its reception. The only one I recognise is La Marseillaise, but ‘Ah! Ça ira’ is described as famous in the notes. While the overall work is not remotely profound or dramatic, it is thoroughly enjoyable, and the equal division of the two solo parts is appropriate, given the ethos of the times.

The Devienne provides a significant contrast of soundworld because of the four wind instruments. I’ll admit that it’s not my favourite combination, but I still found plenty to enjoy, though as much from the orchestral contributions as the solo parts. There is one aspect of the live recording of the Devienne that may deter some listeners. In accordance with the way audiences behaved back in the 18th century, the performers here encouraged their audience to applaud (or boo if they felt so inclined) during the performance, particularly after the various solo sections in the Variations that constitute the second movement. It may have been how things were back then, but it just felt forced and awkward here. It’s really my only negative comment, and not enough to stop me from nominating it for a Recommended tag.

The orchestra play period instruments, but for those who might be averse to the more extreme implementations of this should rest assured that the result is an ideal blend of the old world with the new. Its name derives from a famous French society (and orchestra) of the 18th century, which commissioned Haydn’s ‘Paris’ symphonies. The booklet notes (in French and English) are as good as I’ve ever read, and the sound is very natural. This is the third release by the ensemble of music from this era, each of which has included a Haydn symphony. The previous two have not been reviewed on these pages, but I’m certainly interested in hearing them.

In 2018, I struggled to find any releases that I wished to nominate for MWI’s Recordings of the Year. Now in the first week of 2019, I would seem to have one already.

David Barker

 



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