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Haydn reissues on CD
& mp3CD

Complete Symphonies, Violin Concertos, Overtures etc. Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra / Ádám Fisher
Nimbus NI 5847 [8 disc MP3 Box Set]

Haydn String Quartets: Op. 51 'Seven Last Words' String Quartet, Op. 54 Nos. 1 - 3, Op. 55 Nos. 1 - 3, Op. 64 Nos. 1-6, Op. 71 Nos. 1 - 3, Op. 74 Nos. 1 - 3, Op. 76 Nos. 1-6, Op. 77 Nos. 1 & 2, Op. 103.
Amadeus Quartet
Deutsches Grammophon 0289 477 8116

Haydn Nine Piano Trios Hoboken Nos XV:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Beaux Arts Trio Menahem Pressler; Isidore Cohen; Bernard Greenhouse
PentatoneClassics PTC 5186 179 [Amsterdam Concertgebouw, 1976]

Following the marvellous opportunity to enjoy all 104 Haydn symphonies on 8 CDs for about £25 - Nimbus MP3 edition - the Amadeus Quartet's recordings of (27 later string quartets) have reappeared, in a collection in slip-cases, conveniently boxed and available for <£45.

Some of our readers are sceptical of claims that Nimbus' mp3 recordings, at "the highest allowable bite-rate compression" are indistinguishable from normal CDs. Here is an opportunity to compare and contrast.

Older collectors will be familiar with at least some of these well loved Amadeus recordings. They are supplied with notes by Tully Potter, who reminds us of the history of this pre-eminent group who stayed together for 40 years, disbanding upon the death of violist Peter Schidlof. Only cellist Martin Lovett still survives, and he continues to play Haydn - and only Haydn - in trio and quartet with young friends. Potter says of these performances that their style is so homogeneous that it helps to follow their recordings with a score.

There is a satisfying "rightness" in the Amadeus' unaffected interpretations and small blemishes from leader Norbert Bainin's violin can be taken in our stride, even though his sheer technical virtuosity is not quite up with some of today's most high-powered groups.

Hard on the heels of the Amadeus comes the historic Beaux Arts Trio re-release of nine of the 40-odd piano trios. For many of us, their inclusion of these regularly in Wigmore Hall recitals was revelatory; they simply had not been taken seriously before then, particularly because in Haydn's time equality of contribution between the three players had not yet become a norm.

The cello is employed modestly for continuo support of the bass line, and some of the trios were published as works for piano with accompaniment (sometimes not even mentioning the cello). Yet any reservations on that account are swept away listening to them on these CDs. As discovered with the lesser known symphonies, the trios are replete with wonderful music.

At the time, mostly here from the late 1780s, the piano trio was a very new genre. With hindsight now, one may regret that a period fortepiano is not used, but Menahem Pressler's crisp articulation belies any such reservations.

I am delighted to have found a characteristic illustration of the Beaux Arts Trio in a later incarnation; Pressler rarely looked down to the keyboard and always watched his colleagues attentively (latterly red-headed Daniel Hope at the violin and Antonio Mesenes, cello).

The remastering is excellent and Franz Steiger's notes exactly what is required.

To celebrate the Haydn tricentenary in style, you'll need all these boxed sets.

Peter Grahame Woolf