I had previously assumed that many of these symphonies are apprentice or second rate works, and working through them would be a worthy chore, necessary to understand how Haydn got to the point where he could write great works. However this is not so. Clearly Haydn was a mature composer from the start of this cycle, so how he got there remains, at least to me, a mystery. Unfairly eclipsed by the later masterpieces, you hear a musical language where surprising, teasing and even ambushing the listener is structural. Compare them to his brother Michael's symphonies, beautiful as they also are, to appreciate their originality. Likewise middle period works, often denigrated, emerge as subtle and entrancing, informed by Haydn's involvement with comic opera. A personal note about Christopher Hogwood - as a student in the early 1980s I went to a (free!) chamber concert he led in an Oxford college. This opened my ears to Haydn, music that has given me the greatest pleasure and solace, so I record my small thanks in his memory. Thanks also to the reviewer for the pointer to the illuminating original notes by Prof. Webster, not included here.
Reduced number of stars. No lomger a completist, I found that there are so many symphonies here that I tended not to listen to them. A few well worth having (Hornsignal for one) but certainly an equal number sounded somewhat formulaic, so now I tend to stick to the great later works. Well played and conducted though so still 4 stars
Hogwood had an exceptional affinity with Haydn. He captures the Haydns originality and wit without resorting to the exaggeration that some others resort to, though some may find the horns occasionally obtrusive (I don't). Get it if you want all of Hogwood's Haydn as the more recent complete symphonies excludes some in favour of Bruggen.
As others have already confirmed, this is a very welcome gathering of the late Christopher Hogwood's l'Oiseau Lyre recordings of Haydn symphonies (bar 76 and 77 which were later released as a BBC Music Magazine cover disc). I have but one thing to add, and that is to repeat more prominently a point I made in a comment to an earlier customer review above, that is that James Webster's excellent detailed notes which were not included in this re-issue can be found in pdf format at http://christermalmberg.se/files/pdf/musik/verkkommentarer/haydn_joseph_the_symphonies_volume_1-10.pdf
This is a fabulous box. It isn't a complete cycle, sadly, but there is a wealth of great music here, superbly played.
The actual contents of the box are Symphonies Nos. 1-75, 94, 96, 100, 104, 107, and 108. It is a great shame that the project was never finished, but the 81 symphonies that are here are quite marvellous. Haydn was a truly great symphonic composer and in my view anyway his symphonies are at least the equal of those of Mozart. There is beauty, passion, tranquillity…you name it, it will be beautifully evoked here somewhere. And, of course, there is Haydn's wonderful wit and twinkle in the eye in abundance.
Hogwood and the AAM play brilliantly. They are a period ensemble, of course, which to me brings a freshness and glow to these works which suits them perfectly. Hogwood was a great conductor and his attention to detail and obvious love of these works produce something quite special, I think. There is always a danger with a large cycle of works that the artists slip into a slightly samey routine but I don't find any hint of that here. This is partly due to the recordings being made over a long period, widely spaced out, but chiefly because the musicians so obviously care about every single movement they play. As a result, I love this set.
The recorded sound is excellent. The notes in this box are a bit sketchy, but full notes are available on-line (thanks to Scratcher for that information and for the link: http://christermalmberg.se/files/pdf/musik/verkkommentarer/haydn_joseph_the_symphonies_volume_1-10.pdf)
It is largely a matter of personal taste whether or not you will feel the same. There are two excellent Complete cycles available, conducted by Dorati and Fischer, both of which I like very much indeed and I would be hard put to choose between this and either of them, but whenever I listen to Hogwood's recordings I get a lovely sense of enjoyment underpinned by top-class musicianship. I couldn't ask for more than that. Warmly recommended.