The Nielsen Sesquicentenary

As hardly anyone needs to be reminded now, this year brings us the sesquicentenaries of the births of Northern Europe’s two greatest symphonists, Finland’s Jean Sibelius and Denmark’s Carl Nielsen. While this enables us to roll out the mellifluous words sesquicentenary and sesquicentennial, it is illuminating to recall at this point the plain old centennial observances of 50 years ago.

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The Stunning Rescue of a Major American Symphony

About 40 years ago, several American orchestras commissioned new works in celebration of the bicentenary of the United States, most of which, not at all surprisingly, were dutifully performed and quietly forgotten. A mystery generated by this activity, however, is how one of the most ambitious of those bicentennial works, which enjoyed a downright stunning success -- with the musicians who performed it, the audiences that heard it, and the critics who covered the premiere and the three performances given 18 months later -- could have been so totally ignored over the decades since then.

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Max Goberman's Haydn Symphonies, with Significant Additions: Part Two

As indicated in the first part of this two-part piece, posted on April 1, the claim that “Virtually none of Goberman’s recordings have appeared on Compact Disc until now” is quite an overstatement. All 41 of the symphonies and the two overtures that were issued on the original LRM LPs have been available for some time from Pierre Paquin’s Haydn House in excellent reproductions of the original LP sound. The stunning “Maria Theresia” in Mr. Paquin’s edition is characteristic in that it may strike some listeners as having an agreeably warmer character than the one from Sony, which may seem just a bit overly bright by comparison. Some of the individual symphonies have appeared on CD from other sources (among them a commercial label or two), and some have even circulated with the missing repeats in place, though of questionable origin. But it does not appear that the four additional symphonies or the Overture to Acide e Galatea had ever appeared in any format until the arrival of the new set from Sony.

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Max Goberman's Haydn Symphonies, with Significant Additions: Part One

Just as this column’s last installment was posted, in December 2014, welcoming the long awaited return of the Schneider Quartet’s Haydn (originally recorded for and issued by the Haydn Society, more than 60 years ago, now handsomely reissued by Music & Arts Programs of America), news came of a near-parallel phenomenon, the restoration of the Haydn symphony recordings with Max Goberman conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, originally issued on Goberman’s own LP label, Library of Recorded Masterpieces, now on CD from Sony Classical (88843073942, 14 CDs, so far issued only in the UK, very economically, with the individual discs also offered separately, as downloads).

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A Certifiable Legend, Superbly Revived, with Some Unexpected Extras

The Schneider QuartetThe LP cover shown here has been a welcome sight for more than 60 years, even as its appearance became less and less frequent, and eventually only a memory. It is Arno Schuele’s elegant design for the Haydn Society’s recordings of that composer’s string quartets, played by the Schneider Quartet. The same striking cover was used for all of those releases, printed in different color combinations for the various sets of quartets that came to be grouped under collective opus numbers; as the decades passed, Schuele’s unique and unmistakable design became the symbol of a treasure hunt successfully completed, among the cutout bins and resale shops. Now it has returned to grace the long-awaited restoration on CD of the invaluable recordings for which it was created. The splendidly executed restoration, from Music & Arts Programs of America (CD-1281, 15 CDs), is not a minor development, but a vital chamber music phenomenon, profoundly and excitingly welcome. There is even pleasure in recalling the circumstances that made it so, as well as acknowledging its arrival.

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