Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Sonatas Nos 19, 20, 32, 48 & 50
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)


Jean Efflam Bavouzet’s first Haydn collection, recorded on a modern but relatively light-toned grand, was much praised – not least, by this reviewer – when it appeared in April last year. His playing in this second instalment is quite as exemplary in touch, phrasing, characterisation and continuity, while the recorded sound is again intimate yet unconstricted. If the results seem marginally less revelatory, this may partly reflect the choice of relatively early works – with nothing from the last and richest 15 years of Haydn’s sonata writing.

To be sure, Bavouzet’s readings of the wistful ‘Siciliano’ and the pert ‘Minuet’ that open and close the earliest sonata on this disc – No. 19 in E minor (c1765) – have all the tenderness and crispness, respectively, that one could wish. Yet in the haunting first movement of the more familiar little Sonata No. 32 in G minor (c1771) one might prefer a slightly less forward, more introspective approach. And while Bavouzet amply justifies playing all repeats, this movement, with its lonely little cadenza near the end, is an instance where the second half is more telling heard just once.
Yet such qualifications scarcely alloy the distinction of the disc as a whole. Bavouzet brings a fizzing vivacity to the first movement of the Sonata No. 48 in C (c1778), the whirling left hand triplets of which will be all-too familiar to many a learner-pianist. And in the solemn neo-baroque central movement of No. 50 in D (c 1778), his control of sonority and voicing of inner parts has a measured grandeur that is quite marvellous. Bayan Northcott