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Haydn: Symphonies 93-104 Box set

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, December 2, 1992
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Austro-Hungarian Orchestra
  • Conductor: Adam Fischer
  • Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Audio CD (December 2, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Nimbus Records
  • ASIN: B0000064AU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,471 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By R. Graham on March 28, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent collection of Haydn symphonies. It is the highest numbered volume in an 8 volume set although it is not the last to be produced. Volumes 5 and 2 are forthcoming and will be available in October of 2000 and 2001 respectively. (I contacted the record label to find out...that's how much I enjoy this set) It is a full digital recording and has no discernable technical flaws. The performances are beautifully done. If you are looking for a complete collection of Haydn symphonies - this is one piece of the set I would recommend.
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I suppose it's a tad bit ethnocentric to assume that because Fischer and the Haydn Orchestra are Hungarian they'd be able to play Haydn better than anyone else, but in this case I feel it's true. Aside from having a high level of technical skill, the orchestra puts real verve and life into their performances. (You will never listen to another recording of the "Military" symphony again.) This is coupled with Fischer's flair for the dramatic; endings are rallentandoed appropriately, and each piece shines with the sense that it is being thoroughly interpreted, not just perfunctorily played through. A rather muffled-sounding recording of the "Clock" symphony and some blurriness in the first movement of the "Military" does not detract from the overall greatness of these interpretations. Ethnocentric or not, these players know what they're doing.
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Format: Audio CD
I have enjoyed these discs quite a bit. The playing is fabulous, and the conducting is fine. Sometimes the engineering is a little muddy, but not near enough to destroy my pleasure.
For the ultimate London symphonies, I highly recommend Beecham on EMI. No one has matched his charm and wit with the drama. Fischer's recordings are great; Beecham is awesome!
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Format: Audio CD
Some say Haydn's ingenuity is even greater than that of Mozart's or Beethoven's. When listening to this brilliantly played set, I find myself becoming a convert of the belief. Haydn experimented with a variety of musical tools in these works. Surprising twists and turns are abundant. You will hear chamber serenade, harpsichord run, or violin solo in the most unexpected spots. Instruments are sometimes played in very unconventional ways resulting in exotic sounds - similar to what Berlioz and Mahler did later. Structure is toyed with in many symphonies, especially in the early ones.

In Austro-Hungrarian Orchestra, Adam Fischer finds an all-in chef's toolkit needed to cook these delightful ingredients. The woodwinds not only sing but also coo and meow. Strings melt your heart to a puddle with their exquisite pianissimo. Horns are expressive yet stylish. The whole orchestra knows how to knock themselves out when the music calls for it. The overall timbre is unlike any other orchestra I've ever heard, period or conventional. It's bright, edgy and folksy at the same time. It sounds like a virtuosic chamber ensemble rather than an orchestra except in the big symphonies. I believe the closest thing to their sound is Vienna Philharmonic playing Johann Strauss waltzes. Throw in a hint of gypsy flavor then it would be even closer.

Because this is a massive 33-CD set, there are inevitably a few imperfections. In a handful of spots the strings are not perfectly together. Adding to this, some of the violins have very distinctive tones which don't blend well with others when the music gets energetic. As to the engineering, some of the symphonies recorded early in the cycle are captured with too much reverberation, especially some London symphonies which sound soft-edged.
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...try the set of London Symphonies performed by Howard Shelley and the Swiss-Italian Radio Orchestra on the Hyperion label (if you can still find it). Let me first say that I think most of Fischer's early and middle-period Haydn symphonies are terrific; his rather earthy, "raw" approach perfectly suits the folksy, experimental nature of the fascinating symphonies which Haydn created while isolated at the Esterhazy Palace. The 12 "London" symphonies, though---grand works intended for festive public display---need a somewhat different approach in terms of both interpretation and sonic ambience.

Fischer does indeed bring out both drama and humor in these 12 great works, but the brilliance, elegance, exhuberance and --for lack of a better word--"SUNLIGHT" of the Shelley performances must be heard to be believed. The sound and virtuostic playing of the medium-sized Swiss-Italian orchestra combines the best elements of period instruments and modern, and the recorded sound is stunning: bright, clean, warm and amazingly detailed. Fischer's acoustics are truly sub-standard---tubby, over-reverberant and, in the case of a few of the symphonies, miked so distantly that you seem to be listening from the outer lobby.

If you truly love these symphonies, get the splendid Shelley set; you'll feel that special thrill you experienced the very first time you encountered this joyous music.

LR
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