Recorded in 1964 and 1978, this falls into the category of historical historical recordings, a small segment of the market, but not without interest. Actually, these readings by Les Solistes de Paris hold up better than many recordings from the early days of the historical-performance movement. The historical-performance descriptor isn’t even really relevant for the 1964 recordings of the Symphony No. 44 in E minor, “Trauersinfonie”, and the Concerto for violin, harpsichord, and orchestra in F major, airy, very French versions, with a notable lack of Sturm und Drang in the intense minor-key symphony.
The most interesting thing is how far the musicians came between 1964 and 1978, with a new interest in historical procedures on the part of conductor Henri-Claude Fantapié and help on the ornamentation from the leading Haydn scholar of the day, H.C. Robbins Landon. It makes the difference in an emotionally penetrating reading of Haydn’s still-underrated Stabat Mater and in the dark Libera me, a work just then coming into general circulation. The Stabat Mater is given a large, operatic reading in which the soloists and the Chorale Philippe-Caillard fully cooperate. Newer versions of all these pieces may be preferable, but the unique collection of all this somber Haydn, so unlike his usual genial personality, is another plus, and serious Haydn buffs will find these distinctive performances. The booklet notes are in English and French, alternating between languages by section.