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Franz Joseph HAYDN

Symphonies 70 - 81
Austro Hungarian Haydn Orchestra - Adam Fischer.
Symphonies 70, 71 and 73, June 1997, and Symphonies 72 and 74 - 81,
May 1998. recorded in the Haydnsaal, Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt, Austria.
Nimbus NI56525 [4 hours 2 minutes]


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Here is the next extremely competitively priced box in Nimbus's series of the complete symphonies of Haydn. There is only one further box to go, and if that is as well presented as this issue (and all of the others), collectors like myself who have been buying them as they have been released will have a very good collection of these works. The recordings in this series were started in 1987, with the sets starting to appear in 1994.

Nimbus is to be congratulated for their enterprise in continuing with this series given the current state of the recording industry, and it is my hope that the last set will be issued as originally planned. So many other projects of this nature have been suspended by the major companies, so let's hope that Nimbus will continue.

What about these discs themselves - some critics have been a little lukewarm about this series because of the recordings (somewhat resonant) and the playing (non period instruments - heresy). It is a blight on our appreciation of music of this kind that it should be emaciated and in some cases downright uncomfortable to listen to in the interests of having period instruments for their own sake.

These recordings are certainly not like this. Adam Fischer has developed the playing style of his orchestra (members of the Vienna P.O., Vienna S.O and Hungarian State Orchestras), all volunteers for this project. He has tried to encourage the mid-European style of playing where phrasing is all important, which leads these performances to have a vitality and immediacy which is becoming increasingly rare these days.

The performances tingle with life and they always maintain interest, the only drawback with this set being that the Symphonies on offer are not likely to be well known to the general public. However, in a complete set of 104 symphonies (or more, if you take into account the latest scholarship), as the series comes to an end, this is inevitable.

Named Symphonies in this batch are thin on the ground. We have No. 73 in D Major (La Chasse), as the only exception. By the time Haydn had reached no. 70 he was an accomplished symphonist, and all 12 works in this set are good examples of his craft. They perhaps do not show the absolute mastery which pervades the "London", or "Paris" sets of symphonies, but they are far more than mere 'sausage machine' compositions, written to provide music fare for the houshold of Haydn's wealthy patron.

Slow introductions to first movements had not yet become the norm with Haydn and so we only have three examples of this within the twelve. Most of the first movements are beautifully turned in with most lively playing, a feature of the whole project. I cannot recommend this set too highly, and if you feel somewhat sympathetic to my attitude towards original instruments, you will experience sustained pleasure and joy from these works.

John Phillips

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