Haydn: Keyboard Sonata in D, Hob. XVI:5a; Keyboard Sonata in E flat, Hob. HVI:45; Keyboard Sonata in D, Hob. XVI:19

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Keyboard Sonata in D, Hob. XVI:5a; Keyboard Sonata in E flat, Hob. HVI:45; Keyboard Sonata in D, Hob. XVI:19
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1174
These three sonatas from the 1760s have never been specially favoured. True, the leisurely first movements are a touch stiff and chilly in their rhetoric (that of No. 5a, incidentally, is reconstructed from a fragment that came to light in 1961). But the slow movements have a typically Haydnesque austere tenderness, while the finales of Nos 19 and 45 show the young composer at his most exuberantly inventive. As on previous discs in his ongoing cycle, Ronald Brautigam makes an eloquent case for the music on his chosen instrument, an attractive, nutty-toned copy of a 1790s Viennese fortepiano. He seizes attention in the unalluring-looking opening movements with his imaginative variety of touch and dynamics, and the way he balances whimsical, quizzical rubato with a command of long paragraphs.

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In the Andantes I especially enjoyed his warm, singing line, the fresh nuances he brings to the main theme of No. 45, and the extreme contrasts of register in No. 19 – so much more piquant on a fortepiano than on a modern grand. True to form, Brautigam tears into the finales with a gleeful flamboyance that Haydn himself would surely have relished. One proviso, as before, is the pianist’s reluctance to add embellishments – even appoggiaturas – on repeats. Plain passages remain stubbornly plain. Otherwise a disc that had me appreciating these early works as never before.