H&H soars in delightful evening of Haydn
Concerts devoted solely to Haydn’s music have resulted in some of the Handel and Haydn Society’s most rewarding programs over the last several seasons.
Friday night at Symphony Hall, Harry Christophers and the H&H period instrument orchestra once again turned their attention to the Classical master in a concert that featured two symphonies and an opera overture.
But the centerpiece of the evening’s first half was Haydn’s Violin Concerto in A major. One of three surviving concertos the composer penned in the early 1770s, the A major was lost for a century and a half before turning up in the archives at Austria’s Melk Abbey in 1949.
It was a fortunate find because it’s a charming work, filled with virtuosic flashes yet brimming with the composer’s characteristic melodic lyricism.
Bringing the piece to vivid life was violinist Aisslinn Nosky, who performed double duty as soloist and leader.
Nosky possess fine technique on her instrument, and she tossed off the darting runs and double stops that pepper the finale and cadenzas with verve and a firm sense of the melodic line. Her tone is colorful, sounding dusky in the lower register and pristine in the upper. But her greatest gift as a violinist is her ability to play with a singing quality, a style that befits Haydn’s music. Her performance of the second movement was especially gorgeous. There, her full, resonant line soared above the ensemble.
The strings of the H&H orchestra provided accompaniment that was sensitively attuned to the Classical style.
The concert opened with Haydn’s Symphony No. 8. Subtitled “Le Soir,” this early symphony is the third in a set of pieces that depict the times of day. The piece shows Haydn at work with the jovial, dramatic style that would come to define his mature works.
Harry Christophers crafted the symphony in broad strokes, taking care to highlight the music’s shapely line. The trickling themes of the first movement moved with light touch, while the finale, Haydn’s musical depiction of a storm, had a churning intensity. The aria-like phrases of the second movement flowed in long arches, with Nosky and cellist Guy Fishman offering silvery solo passages.
The third movement was marred by slight technical problems, namely a bass solo, which wandered out of tune in a few spots. That quibble aside, the H&H period instrument orchestra was at the height of its powers, playing together with resonant tone and fine corporate blend.
The orchestra’s best playing came in the closer, Haydn’s Symphony No. 84 in E-fat major.
Christophers led a thoroughly dramatic performance of this Paris symphony. The song-like, slow introduction to the piece was spacious while the ensuing theme was effervescent, sliding into surprising shifts of key along its journey.
The ever-flowering variations that make up the second movement were shaped in a delicate manner, the music taking on the grace of an operatic aria, particularly in the svelte phrases played by the woodwinds.
Christophers took the final two movements at a brisk pace that brought animated energy to the performance. The minuet moved with a rustic, sure-footed feel while the finale sparkled with precision playing from the ensemble, with bassoonist Andrew Schwartz and flutist Christopher Krueger supplying the solo highlights.
The second half opened with the overture to Armida. Christophers led a reading of soaring vitality.
The program will repeat 3 p.m. Sunday at Symphony Hall. handelandhaydn.org
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