Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Nos 38, 39, 45 & 59
PERFORMER: Denis Kozhukhin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4118

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Still in his twenties, Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin has already notched up an impressive array of awards and star appearances, yet his artistic qualities as revealed in this Haydn sonata selection are quite distinct from the kind of temperamental splashiness his career might suggest. On the face of it, these are rather ‘straight’ readings, meticulously fingered and judiciously paced; Kozhukhin never rushes detail or stabs at the keyboard for emphasis, nor does he resort to decorating repeats or adding brief cadenzas at fermata (pauses) as Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, for instance, sometimes does. Yet his apparent restraint discloses an intent thoughtfulness and a subtlety of dynamic shading through which the highly contrasted characters of Haydn’s various movements emerge all the more compellingly.

All this is evident in his fine account of the relatively familiar E flat Sonata composed in 1789 – yet even more so in the CD’s three earlier sonatas from the 1770s. The darkly rocking F minor slow movement of Sonata No. 38, as sensitively contoured by Kozhukhin, sounds like a pre-echo of the nocturnes of Field and Chopin some 60 years in the future, while his playing of the central minuet of Sonata No. 47 glows with gentle affection. We are not told the make of Kozhukhin’s modern concert grand, but it sounds lucid and even-toned in Onyx’s focused recording.

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Bayan Northcott