Haydn Piano Sonatas Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Joseph Haydn
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn Piano Sonatas Vol. 4
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Vol. 4: Sonatas Nos 30, 38 & 40; Variations on F minor, Hob. XVII: 6; Variations conclusion (first version)
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)


Was Haydn being gently ironic when he titled his Variations in F Minor Un piccolo Divertimento? This is actually one of the most serious and revealing works in his keyboard output – he even took the trouble to extend and intensify its dramatic coda before publication. In addition to the familiar final version, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet also offers us the opportunity to hear the work with Haydn’s unpublished original coda. Either way, this is among the finest accounts on disc: searchingly nuanced from moment to moment yet never losing its grip on the work’s tragic progress.

Bavouzet’s readings of the three selected Sonatas in this latest instalment of his ongoing series are all equally illuminating in different ways. He is wonderfully dry and droll in the opening movement of the early Sonata No. 30 (Hob. XVI: 19), and dazzling in the quick changes of its rondo-variation finale. He brings an almost Chopinesque resonance to the lilting Siciliana-like Adagio of the Sonata No. 38 (Hob. XVI: 23) and crisp grandeur to the discursive opening movement of the more popular-style Sonata No. 40 (Hob. XVI: 25) written for Count Nikolaus Esterházy.

The decorations Bavouzet adds from time to time always sound spontaneous and are often varied in repeats. He inserts the cadenza by Zoltán Kocsis at the pause near the end of the Andante of the Sonata No. 30, offering interesting comments on Haydn’s themes.


Bayan Northcott