Haydn: Piano Sonatas & Variations

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LABELS: Mirare
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 53 in E minor, Hob.XVI/34; No. 54 in G, Hob.XVI/40; No. 62 in E flat, Hob.XVI/52; Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII/6
PERFORMER: Anne Queffélec (piano)

Pupil of Paul Badura-Skoda, Georg Demus and Alfred Brendel, and 1969 Leeds Piano Competition winner, Anne Queffélec seems incapable of making an ugly sound on the piano. Everything in this Haydn collection is cleanly articulated, judiciously pedalled and expressively varied in colour and touch. She never, ever thumps. At its best, as in her intent but not too rushed account of the Scarlatti-like opening Presto movement of the C minor Sonata, her playing has a detail and spirit of its own.
Unfortunately, she has also acquired certain mannerisms liable to irritate those who like their Haydn straight: in particular, a tendency to insert a minute hesitation or pause at any abrupt change of dynamics or texture – which may heighten the immediate effect, but often inhibits longer term phrasing and flow.

There are already lingerings at the outset of the much-recorded Variations in F minor, and its coda is sadly weakened in impact by fussy pulling-about – a pity, for the variations in between accumulate a genuine breadth. 
Again, one wonders why she persistently reduces the dotted rhythms of the perky second subject of the first movement of the grand last Sonata in E flat to choppy grace-notes – emphasised by a recording slightly on the dry side. This potentially distinguished disc gets only a qualified welcome. Bayan Northcott