Magazine article Gramophone

Haydn: 'Piano Sonatas, Vol 6'

Magazine article Gramophone

Haydn: 'Piano Sonatas, Vol 6'

Article excerpt

Haydn [G]

'Piano Sonatas, Vol 6'

Piano Sonatas--HobXVI/2; HobXVI/21; HobXVI/28; HobXVI/33; HobXVI/43

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet pf

Chandos (F) CHAN10942 (83' * DDD)

Haydn's reputation as a competent pianist but no wizard is surely correct; he appears never to have stepped forwards to present himself as a performer of his own solo pieces, and that probably accounts a good deal for the fact that they still live in the shadow of Mozart's. Yet the piano was at the centre of his life, the instrument at which he improvised and tested all his ideas as part of his morning routine, and in writing music for it he was interested in the expressive possibilities that the developing fortepiano was opening up. The 60-odd sonatas represent some of the most ambitious keyboard music of their time, and virtuosity was always an element of it.

I've always loved it and have been admiring of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's Chandos series for promoting--in his description--'the boundless treasures of this sublime music'. He has done so at a level of technical perfection allied to insight, rigorous intellectual curiosity and the probing instincts of a distinguished performer that have never been brought to bear so acutely and consistently on this part of Haydn's activity. Sometimes the music doesn't look much on the page; some pianists regard the writing as relatively undeveloped, compared with Mozart's or dementi's, and others have been perplexed by the fact that it doesn't display a continuous stylistic development. Lay this baggage aside and listen to these five nicely programmed sonatas, none of which is often encountered in recitals. You catch Haydn's adventurous spirit and humanity straight away; only he could have written them.

The B flat Sonata, HobXVI/2, is the earliest in this grouping and may date from 1762. It's a lovely piece with a Largo second movement in G minor and a Trio section in B flat minor of the final Minuet that must have gladdened Brahms's heart. Haydn at this time was reaping the harvest of his studies of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the Treatise on the True Art of Keyboard Playing as well as CPE's compositions. Haydn admired him as 'the father of us all'. …

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