Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3: Sonatas No. 16 in D; No. 29 in E; No. 33 in C Minor & No. 42 in G
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)


This third disc in Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s ongoing exploration of Haydn’s Keyboard Sonatas is the best yet. In his first two instalments, the lucidity of touch, and depth of insight were outstanding. To this he brings a more consistent use of enlivening decoration in repeats, and a still firmer grasp of the long-breathed paragraphing behind Haydn’s neatly demarcated sentences. Doubtless, some might still object that the sound of the modern Yamaha grand bears little resemblance to the 18th-century harpsichords and fortepianos for which Haydn wrote – no matter how luminous its top register and crisp its bass – and that Bavouzet’s range of dynamics, effects, and pedalling far exceed period style. To such sticklers for ‘authenticity’ one can only say: listen!


As before, the works here are presented not chronologically but as a balanced programme. The centerpiece is the relatively familiar middle-period Sonata No. 33. Its austere outer movements heave with a sense of plaintive restlessness in Bavouzet’s searching interpretation, most notably in the reflective cadenza – Bavouzet’s own. He precedes this work with the more briskly genial Sonata in E flat, and follows with the Sonata in G, with its deliciously flowing minuet and darker trio. But he dares to round off the disc with one of Haydn’s earliest keyboard divertimentos, the perky Sonata in D major (c1760). In the context of the other sonatas here it could sound rudimentary – but not as Bavouzet plays it. Bayan Northcott