Haydn: Symphonies 55-69.Fischer

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

What a shame that these middle period symphonies are often passed over in favor of either earlier or later ones, for these are mature and exciting works, imbued with rich orchestration and brimming with originality and invention. They also are loaded with lyric expression and some of the most elegant, elegiac slow movements every penned by any composer. The dance movements have verve and grace, many of them grabbing the best of both worlds by coupling peasant-like misplaced accents with the most charming high-class melodies. But above all, these works are dramatic. In fact, the origin of many of them lies in stage works that the busy composer adapted into symphonies to save time in his hyperactive schedule. One such is the famous symphony No. 60, Il Distratto, adapted from stage music for Regnard’s play, Le distrait, which is an extremely funny piece that includes a plethora of musical jokes, culminating with the violins having to tune their instruments near the beginning of the last movement.

The five-CD set is part of an ongoing series that needs just one more volume to be complete. It is played on modern instruments but with careful attention to correct stylistic practice. Adam Fischer seems the ideal conductor for the project. He knows when to let a lyrical line speak for itself, yet also when to move a presto along in an exhilarating, near-reckless manner while always remaining in control. He is aided by having some of the best players in Europe, members of various first-rate Viennese and Hungarian orchestras who are handpicked to band together to perform Haydn’s music. The string body is solid and sure, the woodwinds are the same, and the horns are astounding. Listen to those acrobatic horn calls in the last movement of the “Fire” symphony, which never have been played in a more thrilling, sharply articulated manner.

The recorded sound is warm and rich, with singular detail. Nimbus makes its recordings using the UHJ “Ambisonic” surround system. I have found that these will decode with excellent results, though surely not exactly what was intended, using Dolby surround position on home theater equipment. This produces a warm ambient field that makes you feel like you’re actually in the hall. In sum, for my money, Fischer’s is the Haydn symphony series for our time, eclipsing not only Dorati’s pioneering effort (also recorded in the same part of the world), but also those dry, pedantic period instrument recordings that seem to capture the letter but not the spirit of this amazing music. Fischer gets them both, and in spades. Do not deny yourself this wonderful set.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: this one

FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN - Symphonies 55-69

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