How much Haydn is enough Haydn? Now that all the symphonies have been recorded several times, now that period-instrument and modern-instrument performances are available, and now that original versions, published versions, and variant versions have all been documented, is there really a need for more Haydn recordings? More specifically, is there really a need for a second series of recordings of Haydn's symphonies with Adam Fischer leading the Österreichisch-Ungarische Haydn-Philharmonie (aka the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic)? After all, they had already recorded all of Haydn's symphonies label in the '90s for the English Nimbus in performances that were smart and stylish, and that set well with the composer's unique combination of high art, deep feeling, and good fun.
If the performances are all as fine as this coupling of the Symphonies No. 97 and No. 102 with the Overture "L'anima del filosofo," the answer is yes. Fischer's understanding of Haydn's art has only grown deeper with time, and he finds more mystery in opening Largos, more emotion in central Adagios, more fun in Menuettos, and more exhilaration in closing Prestos here than in his previous recordings. Similarly, since its last outing on these works, the Österreichisch-Ungarische Haydn-Philharmonie has only gotten better. Plus, the inclusion of a less well-known Overture between the two well-known symphonies is an inspired idea, and, of course, the sound of MD&G's fine-grained, deep-resolution recording is an improvement not only on previous recordings, but on virtually anything except reality itself.