The latest batch of SONY budget boxes is at once enticing and frustrating. Just when release date arrived (10/27/17), they were available only briefly from a few Amazon Marketplace sellers; then a day or two later Amazon withdrew them and assigned them a new release date more than two months out - 01/05/18. No explanation has been given. Fortunately, Amazon UK still has them available. Some of these are worth importing, especially given their low price.
Leonard Slatkin's 4-disc, 1990s, survey of Haydn's 12 London Symphonies is a welcome compilation. They are alert, but most of all, gracious. They do not have the life-affirming joyousness or exhilarating crisp articulation heard in the very best (Solti reigns supreme in this regard, and Dorati is not far behind), but they are pleasingly well played by the Philharmonia Orchestra in warm, if slightly diffuse sound. As to the remastering, there is a difference from the originals. SONY's 24-bit process has smoothed the sound a bit; and they are transferred at a slightly lower volume level too, resulting in just a slight loss of focus. I'm afraid this is not advantageous. As Slatkin's approach is graceful and congenial rather than incisive, the extra presence and touch of extra clarity on the originals actually benefit his interpretations. But do not make too much of this. It is a rather subtle, albeit significant, difference.
Isaac Stern's Mozart Sonatas, with pianist Yefim Bronfman, are enjoyable. I've never been a big admirer of Stern's characteristic thin, somewhat nasal tone; but that, along with his sparing use of vibrato, work very well in Mozart - giving these readings an air of authenticity. The fresh, alert and musical interpretations are a pleasure to listen to all through the set. And SONY's digital recording is outstanding - clean and clear, yet with natural body of tone.
Both sets are highly recommended. Although, I'm not sure I'd replace my original single discs of Slatkin's Haydn if you already own them, for sonic reasons.