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.
Granted, there are better individual performances of the various symphonies from conductors as diverse as Eugen Jochum, Leonard Bernstein, Trevor Pinnock, and Thomas Fey; but when all is said and done this remains the finest complete set of Haydn symphonies yet recorded, and its basic musicality only seems to grow more impressive over time.
A limited-edition super-budget set. 2009 is 200th anniversary of Haydn’s death. Decca’s pioneering complete cycle of Haydn symphonies on modern instruments. Recorded between 1969 and 1972, this was the first complete cycle of Haydn’s symphonies. Hungarian-born Antal Dorati was a Haydn pioneer and specialist who also recorded Haydn operas for Philips during the same period. Decca catalogue of Haydn is without parallel and contains complete cycles of the Piano Sonatas and String Quartets (as well as Piano Trios on Philips). Many of these are award-winning recordings.
Regular performances in some of the world's most prestigious venues have confirmed Florilegium's status as one of Britain's most outstanding period instrument ensembles. Florilegium has established a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations of music from the Baroque era to the early Romantic revolution and since its formation, Florilegium's performances have received outstanding critical acclaim around the world.