Piano Sonatas, Vol. 10: Nos 3, 4, 28, 45 & 60; Arietta con 12 Variazioni
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20191 71:31 mins
Haydn’s piano sonatas are numerous (note, this is the tenth volume), inspired and lyrical, but peculiarly tricky to programme. Much of that is down to their necessarily intimate scale; since they were designed for 18th-century instruments and for practising at home or performing in, at most, an aristocratic salon, their natural setting is far indeed from any typical modern concert hall or piano. One of the best ways to enjoy them now is in Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s ongoing series of recordings, and this latest is a splendid addition, including at its heart one of the most engaging of all the works, the late C major Sonata No. 60.
Bavouzet captures much of the essential ‘Papa Haydn’ style behind these works. Measured, lively, sparkling and beautifully phrased, his playing is unimpeachable. Alongside oodles of charm, there is an unfailing brilliance to his articulation, and although the external grace and rather manicured elegance of the Enlightenment era is always evident, you sometimes sense it masks a spirit of wit and verve that’s itching to break free – try the rhythms that spring like March hares through the C major Sonata (No. 60), for instance. The long chain of variations that attend the closing Arietta can nevertheless start to feel ever so slightly as if Haydn was writing on autopilot; here Bavouzet finds a good balance, keeping a rigorously focused approach, but eschewing any temptation to rock the boat by adding extremities. The recorded sound is top-notch, with sharp clarity and just the right amount of bloom.