As performances, I rather like these. They are youthful, zestful, well-articulated and energetic. They do lack some of the inner joy which should be found in Haydn. But, other than the sour oboe (why was this tolerated so often in orchestras from this era?), the orchestra plays well. But there is a snag.
There is a reason these are just now making their first appearance on CD. Frankly, they sound terrible. They were recorded at 3 different sessions, in 2 different halls. It's so interesting that a change to a different hall didn't improve the sound. It just made it different. And equally bad.
Symphonies #44, 46 and 49 were recorded in George Watson's College (Scotland) in what sounds like their gymnasium. And I'm not joking or being sarcastic. It is an outrageously over-reverberant, bath-tubby acoustic which was in no way mitigated by the recording engineer. Worse, there is a bounce-back of the acoustic being fed back into the mics from the back of the hall, just behind the beat, almost to the point of an echo. Add to this the thin, hissy string sound and buzzy reeds and we've got an almost unlistenable recording. I frankly am shocked Eloquence actually lists a Remastering Engineer, implying they made an effort to remaster this disaster. But they also dutifully list the original recording engineers, who surely enjoyed very short careers after this.
The other symphonies, #45, 47 and 48, were recorded in Henry Wood Hall, which should have been an improvement. And regarding the outlandish reverberation, it is. But now, all sense of air, space and the acoustic itself have been smothered. The orchestra here sounds muffled, congested and woefully claustrophobic. And energy level has also dropped several notches.
I've been a strong proponent of the Eloquence label. It has brought to market hundreds of wonderful releases, often of rare and neglected recordings, all freshly remastered in fabulous sound. Hearing this latest release (and seeing the lists of others titles in recent months), one wonders if they have reached the end, scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep the label going. I sure hope not. But this one is an absolute stinker. And it's a pity, because the readings are actually quite good. But the egregious sonics prevent any kind of a recommendation.
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