- La Fedeltà premiata, opera, H. 28/10: Overture. Presto
- Symphony No. 92 in G major ("Oxford"/"Letter Q"), H. 1/92
- Symphony No. 94 in G major ("Surprise"/"The Drumstroke"/"Mit dem Paukenschlag"), H. 1/94
At twice the price of a standard CD, this disc ought to offer something truly special. Happily, excellent playing and state-of-the-art sound repay the investment. Fidelity is ever the top concern for the MD&G label, and they offer remarkably lifelike sound, especially for those equipped to play back the multi-track SACD layer, or to take advantage of MD&G's own 2+2+2 playback option (which dedicates the center and subwoofer channels to extra right and left speakers). From sparkling flute to thumping timpani, you'll feel as though the orchestra were in the room with you. As for the performances, the relatively recently formed Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic, directed by the ensemble's conductor and founder, Adam Fischer, carry off these two popular Haydn symphonies (plus a brief overture) with spirited, stylish, and graceful playing that is always alert to Papa Haydn's irrepressible appetite for humor. Observing all repeats, the chamber-sized orchestra has clearly learned its early-music lessons well, with crisp, lightly detached articulations, airy textures, and fluid phrasing and dynamics that seem perfectly judged. In the minuets, they stress the downbeats, set off by a slight waltz-style hesitation, giving a real feeling of the dance. They use solo strings in the trios -- a delightful contrast -- and adopt strong accents to bring out the playful metric dislocations in the "Oxford" 's trio. Elsewhere, the eponymous "surprise" arrives with a potent thud (if you've got all the channels going, don't be surprised if the neighbors take notice, or if the family cat skitters away in alarm). Even the minor-key episode in the "Oxford" 's slow movement delivers a jolt -- Haydn the eternal prankster. For the budget-conscious, it's probably more practical to stick with Davis's classic Philips recordings, or even Jacobs's more up-to-date offering on Harmonia Mundi. But those with deeper pockets won't be disappointed by this winning recording.