A fabulous box
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 at 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.