This series of performances dates from between 1966 (when the six quartets Nos. 14-19 dedicated to Haydn were recorded) to 1973 and was rightly saluted on its completion as a fine achievement. The playing of the Quartetto Italiano has a freshness, range and subtlety that vividly realizes the music in all its variety, while technical problems seem to have been solved so that the music-making can be both spontaneous-sounding and thoughtful throughout.
This is the kind of package which represents the best of the Philips Classics Duo series. Slightly older recordings, but in beautiful, clear, warm analogue sound; artists of the old school and the first rank; a compilation of potentially neglected music made available absurdly cheaply in attractive packaging with high production values and intelligent notes; what's not to like?
This is a very fine set of Mozart's "complete" wind concertos, though Deutsche Grammophon does not make that claim, to their credit. The Flute Concerto #2 is not here, though that work is simply a lazy reworking of the Oboe Concerto. Some fragments for horn are also missing, though we get the Andante for Flute. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra plays very well throughout, with instrumentals carefully and beautifully balanced.
Recorded between 1989 and 2004, the Hagen Quartet's recordings of Mozart's complete music for string quartet is clearly the finest set of the works released in the early digital age. For one thing, because the collection includes not only the 23 canonical string quartets but also the three early Divertimenti for string quartet, the five Fugues from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier arranged by Mozart, and the late Adagio and Fugue in C minor, their set really is the complete music for string quartet.
The quality of the recorded sound is so perfectly clear on this recording, like finely etched crystal, while at the same time it is so robust and resonant, that it is difficult to believe that the piano played on these two marvelous CDs is a replica of a 1785 Walter fortepiano, a smaller and much more fragile instrument than today's modern concert grand pianos.
The contents of the EMI box are too numerous to list but all the sonatas, variations, and most short pieces are here: absent is the London Sketchbook, which is trite juvenalia.