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.
“You have the sense when listening to Haydn that you’re in very good company; though he’s a great genius, he somehow seems like one of us”. The words of Philip Setzer. Beautifully recorded, exceptionally well played, the Emerson’s traversal of seven quartets of Haydn offers a wonderful musical journey – 1772 to 1799 in terms of chronology; in terms of musical values and growth, well, Haydn’s inventiveness and imagination are simply remarkable.
This sixth volume of the RIAS Amadeus Quartet Recordings completes the 27-CD edition. This extended version complements the 6-CD box set, providing once again a detailed survey of broadcasting history in the 1950s - to which end the entire series of the audite Amadeus Quartet recordings is ultimately directed. Joseph Haydn's string quartets, often rated as the basis for playing quartets, represented far more than an obligation to the Amadeus Quartet.
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.