This limited edition for the Haydn Bi-Centenary is a bargin price reissue of renowned Aeolian Quartet recordings from the 1970's. They are brilliantly played the late analogue sound has been well remastered by Decca. It is strange there are so few complete recordings of these quartets as the music is quite superb. From the early 'divertimento' type pieces through to the profound later works there is never a dull moment.
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.
Listeners seeking a single box of all Haydn's solo keyboard music performed on a fortepiano and recorded in digital sound need look no further. Pianist Ronald Brautigam's 15-disc set for BIS contains everything the great Austrian classical composer wrote for the instrument: the 63 piano sonatas and the 25 miscellaneous works, plus The Seven Last Words of our Savior on the Cross in a keyboard arrangement authorized by the composer.
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.