Haydn Piano Sonatas
This third double album in Marc-André Hamelin’s Haydn series comprises 11 Sonatas from the 60-odd that have come down to us. They range from some of the earliest, composed in the 1760s, to his final sonata period in London in 1794, arranged in roughly chronological order across the discs. Once again, the playing is outstanding for its crystalline tone, springy rhythms, lively tempos and integral handling of ornamentation. Hyperion’s recording of the modern Steinway is cleanly focused. The playing also seems to reflect the gradual replacement of harpsichord by fortepiano over Haydn’s career, with crisp articulation in the earlier Sonatas and more varied touch, dynamics and pedal in the later ones.
Hamelin is often at his most brilliant where Haydn is at his most eccentric: his characterisation of the jerky rhythms, cartwheeling flourishes and staccato cadences of the first movement of the Sonata in F, Hob. XVI: 29 (1774) is a joy. He is not always quite so responsive to Haydn’s more intimate moods, missing something of the lonely pathos of the first movement of the Sonata in G Minor, Hob. XVI: 44 (c1770) – though his account of its wintry minuet finale is perfect. And he is surely too rushed in the late two-movement Sonata in D, Hob. XVI: 51 (1794). Yet these qualifications only briefly alloy the pleasures of a sparkling collection.