Here is a wonderful
treat for all lovers of Haydn Symphonies.
This coupling of the Oxford and Surprise
Symphonies plus a short overture, recorded
live by a pre-eminent specialist Haydn
orchestra is absolutely superb.
As most collectors
will be aware, Adam Fischer, brother
of Ivan Fischer (of Budapest Festival
Orchestra fame) has already recorded
all of Haydn’s Symphonies for Nimbus.
These have been re-cycled a few times
by different companies since Nimbus
went into initial receivership. As far
as I know, these have not been available
separately for a long time. A few were
intermittently available as Nimbus single
releases. This issue then represents
an excellent opportunity to hear the
very high standards of Haydn playing
in stunning sound quality.
Haydn Orchestra was founded by Adam
Fischer in 1986/87 season primarily
to perform Haydn at the Eisenstadt Haydn
Festival, another creation of the conductor.
Players from the Vienna Philharmonic,
Budapest Symphony and the Budapest Festival
orchestra were asked to join the orchestra
for the festival period. This was held
in the concert hall on the Eisenstadt
Estate, the hall where many of Haydn’s
works received their first performances.
One of the complaints
about the Nimbus releases was the generally
reverberant sound, a feature common
to many of that company’s discs. For
this MDG disc there is a change of venue
to Graz and a live recording rather
than a studio release.
The effect of the live
performance is revelatory and MDG’s
recording captures the tingling excitement
of the playing superbly well. The Austro-Hungarian
Haydn Orchestra has always played Haydn
on modern, rather than period instruments,
but have assimilated some period performance
characteristics, such as lively tempos,
hard timpani sticks and the like.
MDG have recorded this
absolutely first rate orchestra in superb
sound quality. I cannot imagine anyone
buying this disc being dissatisfied
with it. The hall acoustic has been
captured well and there is just enough
reverberation to give an exciting edge
to the playing, but not enough to drown
the orchestra in echo.
The Overture, a relative
rarity, is fun, but I would have preferred
another Symphony instead of this short
work. There is still enough space on
the disc, including the overture, for
another Symphony. I suppose the only
real criticism I can level at this release,
is that MDG could have had a well filled
disc which would have been even more
attractive than it already is. Perhaps
there were no further symphonies on
the programme at Graz when these were
In the intervening
years since the Nimbus and Brilliant
sets the playing of the orchestra has
matured and we are now experiencing
real performances played superbly well.
As you may probably
be aware from this review, this disc
has given me immense enjoyment. I cannot
recommend it highly enough.
Finally, the excellent
MDG notes spend time explaining the
concept of their new recording process,
known as ‘2+2+2 multi-channel sound’.
Its aim, they say, is to produce "sweet
spots" all over the listening area.
This system requires yet another arrangement
of speakers within the listening area
over traditional multi-channel sound.
I am bemused as to why the various record
companies believe that their new systems
are going to be the least bit interesting
to all but the anorak brigade. It was
activity like this that killed quadrophony
and the industry does not seem to learn.
Enough to say that the recording quality
is superb, and prospective buyers need
not hesitate whether they have the one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven,
or eight speakers each technology seems
to require us to have.