Man Bites Nuclear Dog
Third-rate Atheism

Haydn: Symphony #92, "Oxford"

I think I mentioned in a comment on some other post that I sort of stumbled across this symphony. Unusually for me, I had tuned in to the local public radio station in my car (because I was tired of the CD that was in the player), and the second movement of this symphony was playing. I ended up sitting in the car (the weather was still tolerably cool) and listening through to the end, and really enjoyed it. 

Since then I've heard it several more times, in two different recordings. First was a 1972 version, Klemperer conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Then I tried a newer one, Franz Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, which, as the name suggests, is more of a period-performance outfit. I liked the Klemperer better. A good bit better, really. I've wondered if perhaps my preference in recordings of a given piece is simply that the first one I hear gets fixed in my mind as the way it should be. But in any case the older recording touches me in a way that the newer one does not. One obvious difference is that Brüggen speeds it up. Look at these times:

Adagio – Allegro Spiritoso 8:55
Adagio 10:00
Menuetto: Allegretto 6:12
Presto 6:04

Adagio Allegro Spritoso 7:27
Adagio 6:09
Menuetto: Allegretto 5:08
Presto 5:23

The difference in the Adagio must surely include some cuts. The tempos are not that different. But I think Brüggen's speed makes the music less rich, which is probably also an effect of the period instruments.

It's called "Oxford" because it was said to have been played at the ceremony in which Oxford awarded Haydn a Doctor of Music degree. The Wikipedia article suggests that was not actually the case. But it was apparently written and first performed while Haydn was in England.

I tend to think of Haydn as somewhat on the dull side, and I think I'm far from alone in that. But I'm pretty sure I'd like a lot of his music if I gave it a chance. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually have a CD of his oratorio The Creation and have never seriously listened to it. The only piece I've listened to repeatedly is the string quartet version of The Seven Last Words of Christ, and I like it quite a lot. 

Here's the last movement of the "Oxford." It puts a smile on my face, and perhaps will do so on yours, too. It makes me think of Mozart, but with less razzle-dazzle. Haydn is a very solid composer.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)