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Holy periwigs, Bach Guild! What a Bonanza!
on May 5, 2013
...aka, The Return of Mogens Wöldike!
Of course, this set is a tremendous bargain, and on that level it is self-recommending. But this is not just a ridiculously cheap way to acquire 14 hours of rich and consistently delightful music by one of the wisest, wittiest, and most original composers of all time, Franz Joseph Haydn. It's also a collection of excellent perfomances by some of the most accomplished classical/baroque performers of the period between 1950 and 1970. Along with exceptional performances of Haydn Symphonies 59 and 75 led by David Blum, a substantial selection of work by the excellent Griller Quartet, and a totally unexpected performance of Haydn's piano sonata #49 by the redoubtable Sviatoslav Richter, I'm especially pleased to see the return to the catalog of many fine performances by the outstanding Danish conductor Mogens Wöldike. His London symphonies 99-104 are really good--and hold up well (based on spot checks) against some of the big names already in my rather extensive Haydn collection. Moreover, Wöldike's exceptional talents as a choral conductor are exhibited in a superb performance of Mass #10 (Missa in Tempore Belli) and an equally outstanding performance--beautifully sung, beautifully paced-- of "The Creation."
For a sample of his artistry just listen, for example, to Wöldike's performance of Missa in Tempore Belli's 3rd movement, "Gloria: Adagio." It begins with an usually expressive cello solo, followed by a beautifully sung solo by the great Viennese base Walter Berry, which intertwines with the cello line. The full chorus then enters quietly and blends raptly with the bass solo and cello, after which Haydn and Wöldike turn up the voltage as Berry, the cellist, and the chorus bat the lead around enthusiastically in a wonderful playful closing to what had been a highly mystical musical moment. This is great stuff--and pure Haydn. With the return of Wöldike's "St. Matthew Passion" in Bach Guild's recently issued Bigger Bach Set, among other great performances in that compliation, we have plenty to be thankful for.