Thomas Fey / Heidelberger Sinfoniker

Haydn: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 21 - Nos. 99, 100

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The complete cycle of Haydn symphonies by German historical-instrument specialist Thomas Fey and his Heidelberger Sinfoniker has reached the composer's later works, and the two pieces recorded here, from the composer's second set of "London" symphonies, are among the most popular of the entire canon. It might make a good place to start if you're uncertain about Fey's work or the historical-performance movement as applied to classical symphonies in general, for in these big scores, with plenty of trumpets, timpani, and full wind scoring, his sound is not so dramatically different from that of the symphony orchestra versions many grew up on. Instead, listeners gradually become aware of the differences: the lack of vibrato in the strings, the rougher texture in the winds that Fey plays up and highlights in place of the anachronistically smooth and dreamy minuet trios that are the norm, the exposed winds and brass, and the quick, gutsy tempos in some of the outer movements. Some people find Fey's readings of Haydn's symphonies, as with those of his teacher, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, too dispassionate, but really they aren't: they just require divestiture of accustomed cues. At any rate, there's nothing here to shock even the confirmed modern-instrument supporter. Hänssler's sound has been an attraction throughout the set.

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