Haydn: Keyboard Sonatas, Hob. XVI:20 & 24, 25, 26

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Keyboard Sonatas, Hob. XVI:20 & 24, 25, 26
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1163
The outstanding work on this latest instalment in Ronald Brautigam’s survey of the Haydn sonatas is the C minor Sonata of 1771 – the composer’s first to contain dynamic markings, and perhaps the earliest unequivocal masterpiece in the pianist’s repertoire. Its finale, in particular (bafflingly described in the woefully inadequate booklet notes as a ‘rapid minuet’), is a piece whose drama and turbulence were not to be equalled until Mozart’s Sonata in the same key, K457. The remaining sonatas here come from a 1773 series dedicated to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. All three place their expressive weight firmly in an expansive opening movement; and two of them have a second movement in the form of a jeu d’esprit – a canon in one case, and a palindrome in the other.

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Brautigam plays on a copy of a late 18th-century piano by Vienna’s leading maker Anton Walter, who was responsible for maintaining the instruments at the Eszterháza Palace. In the matter of repeats it’s possible to feel that Brautigam is generous to a fault; but although he never decorates the music the second time through, he usually manages to find an additional ounce of intensity. His warmly expressive performances can stand comparison with the best. Misha Donat