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Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Roman Rabinovich)

Roman Rabinovich (piano) (FHR)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Nos 6, 11-13, 33, 35, 46, 50 & 58
Roman Rabinovich (piano)
First Hand Records FHR 72   122:47 mins (2 discs)

The largest and finest work in this second instalment of Roman Rabinovich’s survey of the Haydn sonatas is the intense and passionate Sonata in C minor, Hob.20. Haydn composed it with the formidable talent of the sisters Katharina and Marianna von Auenbrugger in mind, and its finale features an explosive passage that has the left hand leaping continually back and forth across the right. More familiar, perhaps, is the bright D major Sonata H.37, whose ubiquity as teaching material led Shostakovich to lampoon it mercilessly in his First Piano Concerto. But its slow movement is as serious and sombre as could be, and the way Haydn links it directly to the finale was an idea not lost on Beethoven. Also an impressive piece is the two-movement Sonata H.48, beginning with an expressive set of variations on two alternating themes. The early sonatas here inevitably leave less of an impression, but even in those there’s usually a minuet movement with a shadowy trio in the minor which reveals more of a personality.

The CD packaging is adorned with pencil drawings by Rabinovich himself, and their wit (one of them shows him sharing a drink with Haydn, another has the two of them on horseback) seems to translate into his sparkling playing. The elegance and liveliness of Rabinovich’s keyboard style are, indeed, a joy to listen to, and his unfailing musicality and inventiveness allows him to penetrate to the expressive heart of Haydn’s world. Altogether, a valuable addition to the Haydn sonatas discography.

Misha Donat