The first thing one notices about this disc is the attractive sound, rounded yet detailed; the second is that the playing of the orchestra is stylish; last but not least, the soloist's first entry tells us that he, too, is a fine player. Rainer Kussmaul's name was unknown to me, but a note on the jewel-case says that he is about to become leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He produces a lovely sound on what sounds like an excellent instrument, and phrases gracefully: altogether this is most enjoyable Haydn playing.
Not many string quartets play on period instruments, perhaps because the public for this music is not familiar with their sound, but also because much of the string quartet repertoire goes beyond the period that these instruments usually cover. The Festetics is one of the few top-rank quartets that does use such instruments, and has focused on the late 18th and early 19th century repertoire - Haydn, Schubert and Mozart - though they have also recorded works by other composers, such as Liszt.
There is a noticeable difference in the sound of this ensemble when comparing it with other quartets. The instruments are more trenchant, the sound is more limpid, and the texture less homogeneous. It is far easier for such an ensemble to create a sound of four instruments interacting, as opposed to a unitary sound that is a mixture of those instruments.
Co-chief conductors Riccardo Minasi and Maxim Emelyanychev take turns on the podium leading this period-instrument band in a rousing collection of concertos by Haydn. Il Pomo d'Oro has been hailed "a wonderful ensemble, and Minasi an outstanding musician" capable of "bringing the house down with his virtuosity" (The Guardian). Emelyaychev's award-winning harpsichord joins Minasi's violin in the soloists' spotlight, along with the distinguished natural horn of Johannes Hinterholzer. The concertos are complemented by Haydn's Symphony No 83 (known as The Hen, because of the ‘clucking’ figures on the strings in its second movement) and his Keyboard Fantasia Hob.XVII:4.