Haydn: Piano sonatas (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Edel
WORKS: Piano sonatas (complete)
PERFORMER: Walter Olbertz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0002182 CCC ADD Reissue (1973-8)
The complete Haydn sonatas number an astonishing 52 works – of which only a tiny handful usually grace the concert platform. You might want the whole lot for reference purposes, or for the sake of ‘completeness’; both these sets are at budget price, and even if the short, early sonatas lack something of the composer’s later strength of character, there’s much to enjoy in both boxes. Olbertz’s set was recorded in the Seventies and offers ADD sound quality, while Piazzini’s is brand new. Either is a good buy, depending on your taste in up-to-the-minute approaches to Haydn and on whether you want the sonatas in strict numerical order (Olbertz) or arranged in more contrasted programmes on each disc (Piazzini).

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Piazzini’s accounts are beautifully shaped, with much attention to the conversational nuances of phrasing, and she often draws more depth of tone from the piano than her competitors, but she uses only the minimum of pedal. Olbertz, recording in the era before the thumbscrew strictures of period performance practice had tightened, is less shy of overtly expressive touches: his interpretation of the C minor Sonata, Hob. XVI:20 (No. 36), is particularly striking as he allows it to veer into reflective realms nearly suggestive of the composer’s most famous pupil, one Mr Beethoven. His acoustic is more resonant and even if his sound quality is officially less sophisticated, it does compare very well.

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Meanwhile Jenó Jandó is gradually approaching completeness in his own Haydn series, characterised by a no-nonsense, down-to-earth vivacity. But you may be swayed by the exceptional value-for-money element in Olbertz’s set – which exceeds even Naxos’s. Jessica Duchen