Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Hob. XVI/3, 20, 23, 24, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 40, 43 & 44

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Arembe
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Hob. XVI/3, 20, 23, 24, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 40, 43 & 44
PERFORMER: Rosemarie Wright (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: ASRWCD 24 DDD (purchase details: 0424 423260)
Wright plays her programme on a 1799 Broadwood fortepiano, Ax on a modern instrument. Both create an agreeable ‘period’ effect, with appropriate ornamentation and decorated cadence points. Wright tends to sustain notes through rests, and the leisurely pace of some of her slower movements makes them rather a plod compared with Ax’s more flowing tempi, but she achieves some well-judged echo effects in repeated phrases. Her instrument is closely miked, and a constant muffled thudding from the action may become irritating.

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There’s a bad edit in the Allegro of the ‘storm and stress’ C minor Sonata, Hob. XVI/20 (disc 1, track 6, at 1:24 mins) where bar 66 is replaced by a repeat of bar 65.

Unlike Wright, Ax plays both first-movement repeats in the G minor Sonata, Hob. XVI/44, preserving the crucial first-time bar at the close of the second section, and he repeats the second half of the B minor Sonata’s Presto from a point some ten bars before the end.

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Wright’s two-CD set comprises 12 sonatas, Ax’s single disc just four. Your choice will depend on the programme you want and the instrument you prefer. If I were seeking an introduction to Haydn’s sonatas I’d be satisfied with Wright, but I should find Ax the more persuasive. Wadham Sutton