Haydn: Keyboard Sonatas, Hob. XVI:23, 34, 36, 37 & 51; Capriccio in G, Hob. XVII:1

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LABELS: Athene
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas, Hob. XVI:23, 34, 36, 37 & 51; Capriccio in G, Hob. XVII:1
PERFORMER: Joanna Leach (square piano)
Believing that Haydn’s relatively unfamiliar sonatas are at least as great as Mozart’s, I applaud every attempt to bring them before a wider public. Whether this is best achieved on period instruments is another matter. This release, featuring a Stodart square piano of 1823, is more likely to attract the attention and reward the full attention of confirmed antiquarians than of the general music lover.— though the widely read Penguin Guide asserts of an earlier release by Joanna Leach that ‘there is no more convincing fortepiano recital than this’. I wish I could say the same of this. To my ears, however, it reveals more limitations than virtues, and this is only partly the fault of the instrument. To justify their modern use fully, period pianos require the highest degree of delicacy and refinement, a flexibility of tone and inflection that emulates in some degree the subtleties of the human voice, and a clarity of texture and articulation unachievable on today’s ‘heavier’ pianos. They require performances revealing attributes of the music beyond the reach of such probing and subtle Haydn interpreters as Brendel, Ax, Pletnev, Andsnes, Richter and Hewitt. Much though I would like to say otherwise, I listen in vain for such evidence here. Jeremy Siepmann