This recording, made in 1991, dates from what was perhaps the heyday of the English Chamber Orchestra (although the group's vigorous activities remain undiminished). The ECO, with origins as a conductorless Baroque orchestra, functioned smoothly as an ensemble, with a restrained sound and a high level of mutual sensitivity among the players. In these late Haydn symphonies, that translated into readings that were exceptionally effective in bringing out the humorous details and asides, the extensions of phrases so that they end with a wink or a joke, that are the essence of late Haydn. The orchestra is probably about the size of the one Haydn had at his disposal in London.
This is a glorious disc. Simply glorious. Anderszewski and Bach have long been congenial bedfellows and the Pole’s playing here is compelling on many different levels. To start with, there’s the sense of sharing the sheer physical thrill of Bach’s keyboard-writing. This is particularly evident in faster movements such as the fierce and brilliant fugal Gigue that concludes the Third Suite, or, in the E minor Fifth Suite, the extended fugal Prelude and the outer sections of its Passepied I. Common to all is a sense of being fleet but never breathless, with time enough for textures to tell.