Haydn: Piano Sonatas: in A flat, Hob. XVI:46; in C minor, Hob.XVI:20; Andante with Variations in F, Hob.XVII:6; Variations on ‘Gott erhalte’ after Hob.III:77; Adagio in F, Hob.XVII:9

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Arcana
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: in A flat, Hob. XVI:46; in C minor, Hob.XVI:20; Andante with Variations in F, Hob.XVII:6; Variations on ‘Gott erhalte’ after Hob.III:77; Adagio in F, Hob.XVII:9
PERFORMER: Paul Badura-Skoda (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: A 352

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Even though the fortepiano here is a c1790 instrument by the Viennese maker Johann Schantz, who Haydn considered the best of his time, one could well imagine perfectionists ejecting this CD in exasperation within minutes.

It is exceptionally closely miked; the instrument’s action sounds perilously uneven in Haydn’s runs and passagework and the veteran player himself can recurrently be heard wheezing and groaning.

Surely the neat urgency of Andreas Staier in his Deutsche Harmonia Mundi Haydn collection, or the spacious Ronald Brautigam in his now complete Haydn Solo Keyboard Music on BIS – both of them using more even-toned modern copies of period instruments – must be preferable? 

Yet Paul Badura-Skoda has not spent the last six decades studying and advocating this corner of the repertoire to no purpose. Despite, indeed partly because of the imperfections there is an immediacy and intensity here as his 81-year old fingers feel their way from one musical configuration to another that is in a class apart from the well-engineered perfection of those younger players.

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Wayward, even bumpy though the unfolding of the exceptionally lovely slow movement of the Sonata in A flat may sound, the underlying grasp of direction and cohesion is all the stronger. One is compelled to listen. Bayan Northcott