Various Artists

Haydn: Highlights

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Franz Joseph Haydn was one of the most brilliant and prolific composers of any period, yet among the greats, his music seems to be the least appreciated, certainly less than the works of his contemporaries, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig van Beethoven. This is why any worthwhile introductory package of his music should be generously filled with not just brief excerpts or single movements from his sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies, or isolated arias or choruses from his oratorios, but with as many complete works as will fit. This Berlin Classics triple-disc compilation offers a representative selection of whole works, including the Symphony No. 94 in G major, "Surprise"; the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D major; the Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major; the String Quartet in C major, "Emperor"; a piano trio; and two piano sonatas, as well as a CD of highlights from the oratorio The Creation. While these may not be everyone's favorite works by Haydn, they at least provide a starting point for beginners, and their wholeness serves to show the true variety in these pieces, which might be overlooked in a collection of snippets. The performances by Günther Herbig, Helmut Koch, the Rosamunde Quartet, Peter Rösel, and Walter Olbertz, among many others, are solidly played and expressively interpreted, and the sound quality is remarkably even throughout the package, despite the differences of dates and venues. While this is a good starter pack for newcomers to Haydn's music, listeners are encouraged to take in as much of it as possible to receive the most rewards.

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