BBC Legends – Eugen Jochum

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.100 in G (Military)
Symphony No.101 in D (Clock)
Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Eugen Jochum

Recorded in the Royal Festival Hall, London on 30 January 1973 (Haydn/LPO) and 23 June 1977

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2006
BBCL 4176-2
Duration: 72 minutes

Eugen Jochum (1902-87) recorded Haydn’s 12 ‘London’ symphonies with the London Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon (and he had previously made a marvellous No.98 with the Berlin Philharmonic for DG and a selection from the ‘London’ works with Staatskapelle Dresden for Berlin Classics). These concert performances are full of life and vitality, the Allegro of the ‘Military’ being especially fleet and unbuttoned. The succeeding Allegretto sports some expressive and perky woodwinds, and if the bass drum, cymbals and triangle are rather too dominating, the suggestion of the infantry is made clear and this is, after all, big-band Haydn. That said, the Minuet trips lightly and capriciously and the finale goes with a swing, the strings’ unanimity impressive, there’s a fine timpani ‘explosion’ and the coda is exhilarating.

Such joie de vivre also distinguishes the ‘Clock’. As in No.100, Jochum conjures a pregnant-with-anticipation slow introduction and banishes such introspection with a deftly launched and spirited Presto, here ‘vivacious’ rather than ‘as fast as possible’. (Some crackle during the exposition and its repeat suggests the source for this release is from an off-air tape rather than the ‘master’ from the BBC’s archives. Given the joyous music-making, it matters not.) The ‘clock’ movement itself is superbly done, a real ‘tick-tock’ (you could set your watch to it!) – whether Haydn was imitating a timepiece or not, Jochum brings a grace and wit, and depth of purpose, to Haydn’s genius that is utterly beguiling. The Minuet (one of Haydn’s most extensive) suggests an Imperial ball, the Trio attractively languorous, and is capped by a scintillating finale, trumpets and drums more liberated than is remembered from the DG tapings. (It’ll be fun to compare one day!)

Concurrent with DG’s recording sessions in 1972 and 1973, the LPO and Jochum played all 12 ‘Londons’ in the Royal Festival Hall – four concerts each of three symphonies, the works played in number order. Therefore this 1973 evening also contained, and began with, Symphony No.99 (the great E flat, and not nicknamed). I’d rather have had this (there’s room) for the Hindemith is disappointing, although it seemed thrilling at the time (as broadcast), Jochum also conducting Till Eulenspiegel, the overture to “Der Freischütz”, and Maurizio Pollini played Mozart’s C minor Concerto (K491).

For all the composer’s unwieldy title, this Weber-inspired work is brilliant and extrovert. Although the LSO responds vividly to Jochum, some of the playing is a little unkempt as well as brash and brass-dominated. With sound that is somewhat congested and perspectives, at times, not always true to the Royal Festival Hall, this performance is more for the Jochum completist.

But the Haydn is terrific and it will be a real pleasure to return to this pairing; Paul Baily’s re-mastering is well-judged, a trifle occluded, but that seems more to do with the source than any attempt be over-zealous with the hiss-clearing digits. Surprisingly, between-movement breaks have not been edited down, but it all adds to the atmosphere.

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