Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Hob. XVI: 20, 22, 23 & 35; Adagio & 5 Variations in D, Hob. XVII: 7

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LABELS: Discover
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Hob. XVI: 20, 22, 23 & 35; Adagio & 5 Variations in D, Hob. XVII: 7
PERFORMER: Walid Akl (piano)
Connoisseurs of the idiosyncrasies of various makes of piano might find these enjoyable Haydn discs rather intriguing. Walid Akl uses an instrument which has some of the warm-hearted boxiness and variety of timbre between registers characteristic of fortepianos, yet it is obviously not a product of the 18th century. It is actually a Steinway, and the intention is presumably to achieve a rapprochement between period and modern instruments (no information is given regarding the exact model, age or preparation of the piano). The result, like Akl’s performances, is mostly a judicious compromise which lacks neither clarity nor lyricism, although the bass register is rather thick in the C minor Sonata and made more so by this work’s resonant recording. The first movement also finds Akl making hard work of the turns, which seem to bump into each other like wagons being shunted on the railway. Elsewhere he is occasionally too strait-laced, and sprightly movements, such as the F major Sonata’s Presto and the Finale of the A major, become a little harsh. Nevertheless, the overall impression is far from negative. Akl’s touch is often exquisite and there is enough flair, insight and geniality to make these rewarding performances. Christopher Dingle