Naxos Haydn Anniversary Box Sets Gain Critical Acclaim
November 21, 2008
To mark the 200th anniversary of Joseph Haydn’s death, Naxos is issuing 4 box sets bringing together his most important compositions. Already, the critics are ecstatic: As Giv Cornfield Ph.D writes “never in the history of recorded music has there been an offering of such value and artistic and technical excellence as is this Haydn bicentennial celebration series. “
THE COMPLETE HAYDN BOXED SETS: ALL THE PIANO SONATAS (8.501042, November 2008), STRING QUARTETS (8.502400, November 2008), CONCERTOS (8.506019, February 2009) AND SYMPHONIES (8.503400, November 2008).
Joseph Haydn died in 1809, and to honour this 200 year occasion, Naxos has assembled a monumental anthology of virtually every significant instrumental work that this great pillar of classical music had ever composed. Just released are the 62 piano sonatas on 10 CDs (8.501042), 76 string quartets (plus The Seven Last Words on the Cross) on 25 CDs (8.502400), and the symphonies, including the Sinfonia Concertante, some attributed symphonies, and addenda to the Hoboken Catalogue, also on 25 CDs (8.503400). The Concertos occupy a "mere" 6 CDs (8.506019); Haydn was not a virtuoso pianist-composer like Mozart or Beethoven, who wrote their sonatas and concertos for their own performance. He composed most of his concerted works for musicians he knew or employed in his capacity as music director of various court orchestras.
|In time for the holiday gift-giving season, I for one cannot think of better ones—gifts that will last forever and keep on giving a lifetime of great music.|
Classical music lovers are not a majority of CD buyers—far from it. Yet there are enough people with 'old-fashioned' tastes like us to sustain what was once the mainstay of the music industry. Also in the minority are serious music students, the up-and-coming next generation of performing artists. But here again, if not exactly a tidal wave of musically-inclined young people, there are enough of them to ensure that good music practices continue—as can be seen in the exciting new young faces that grace the world's concert stages.
At a time when discretionary spending is closely scrutinised, great bargains are sought more than ever. Your humble servant has been collecting classical music recordings far longer than most readers of these lines have been around. Without the slightest hesitation, I can state that never in the history of recorded music has there been an offering of such value and artistic and technical excellence as is this Haydn bicentennial celebration series. Other labels have had their Bach, Mozart and Beethoven commemorative series, but at premium prices and not nearly as elegantly nor coveniently packaged as are these treasures from Naxos, which is now the uncontested world leader in affordable classical music recordings. The entire collection of the Piano Sonatas retails at US$50; the 25-CD set of the String Quartets goes for US$100, the Symphonies are on 34 CDs retailing at US$150, and so on. The recordings are all digital, and Naxos has not skimped on lengths: the average CD contains well over an hour of music. That works out to pennies per masterpiece!
Let's have a look at the recordings, beginning with the sonatas. These are all performed by Jeno Jando, a familiar name on Naxos, for he is a true musical chameleon, at home in all periods (I cherish his idiomatic readings of all the Mozart piano concertos). The Quartets, likewise, are performed by the excellent Kodaly Quartet. The Symphonies are culled from the huge Naxos catalogue and are performed by various excellent orchestras, prominent among them the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, led by Helmut Mueller-Bruehl, for whose work I have a decades-long admiration. Likewise the concertos.
In time for the holiday gift-giving season, I for one cannot think of better ones—gifts that will last forever and keep on giving a lifetime of great music.
-Giv Cornfield, The New Recordings, cliffsclassics.com, November 2008