Writer Recommendations: Haydn: An Imaginary Orchestral Journey

While we are unable to perform live at the Barbican and our favourite venues around the world, you can still enjoy the iconic sound of the LSO through our huge catalogue of recordings. We asked some of the writers we work with to tell us their favourite LSO recordings, and what it is that makes them listen time and time again. Stay tuned for regular recommendations from some of the names behind our programme notes, artist biographies and content. 

Album artwork for LSO Live Haydn: An Imaginary Orchestral Journey

First up, Richard Bratby recommends …

Haydn: An Imaginary Orchestral Journey

'Obviously, there’s nothing to match a live concert. But I was lucky enough to be in the audience when this disc was recorded in 2017, and even then I wished that there was some way to bottle the experience and take it home. I mean, how many orchestral concerts have you been to that end with laughter – actual laughter - as Sir Simon Rattle, the LSO and Joseph Haydn sprang a 229-year old musical joke not once but twice? Don’t worry: if you weren’t there, or you don’t yet own this recording, I’m not about to give away the punchline. But trust me, it’s just as much fun on disc.

Few living conductors understand Haydn like Sir Simon Rattle, and in creating this 'imaginary orchestral journey' he has paid Haydn the compliment of treating him – rightly so – as a poet and a radical, as well as a humourist. He has searched Haydn’s vast catalogue for individual movements that show him at his most original, his most fantastic and (naturally) his most entertaining, and has created an unbroken sequence long enough to fill a disc. The result is 50 minutes of untrammelled, gloriously-played genius.

'I smile every time I hear it, and right now that counts for a lot.'

So there’s cosmic grandeur here, as well as some very earthy high spirits. There are earthquakes, galaxies and some of the daftest jokes in the entire symphonic repertoire. There are moments of pure alchemy: a courtly minuet suddenly turns into a mini-concerto for double bass and bassoon. And towards the end, out of silence, the air suddenly fills with a crazy, warbling dawn chorus made up of Haydn’s music for mechanical clocks. Who’d have thought that something so incredibly silly could be so touching – or that machines could sound so intensely human? I smile every time I hear it, and right now that counts for a lot.'

> Listen on Apple music

> Or purchase from LSO Live

Richard Bratby writes on music and opera for The Spectator, Gramophone and The Arts Desk. He is the author of Forward: 100 Years of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

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