Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7: No. 8 in A, Hob. XVI:5; No. 13 in G, Hob. XVI:6; No. 46 in E, Hob.XVI:31; No. 57 in F, Hob.XVI:47; No. 58 in C, Hob.XVI:48
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Chandos CHAN10998 72:42 mins
How many piano sonatas did Joseph Haydn compose? It’s a good question, as people nervously say when unsure of an answer. They may well be on safe ground about Haydn’s piano sonatas, since no one seems to know, in the case of many of them, or parts of them, what the answer is. Complete sets of the sonatas usually occupy ten CDs, so Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has three to go after this one.
Of the first sonata on this disc, the commentary reads: ‘Its authenticity is very much in doubt. The opening Allegro is more fragmented than is normal in Haydn.’ But isn’t it characteristic of Haydn to write movements that aren’t characteristic of him, and isn’t that one of his major charms? Anyway, by him or not, this is a delightful work, played by Bavouzet with all the idiomatic grace and brio that has characterised his whole series to date – interesting that his specialities, besides Haydn, are Debussy and Ravel. The first two movements of the F major Sonata are ‘in all probability not by Haydn,’ as well as being identical to the first two movements of another sonata. And so on… I recommend listening and trying not to worry about whether what you are hearing is by Haydn or not. Possessiveness is a Romantic trait, and so is worrying about authorship, and Haydn is paradigmatically Classical, as Bavouzet shows in these immaculate accounts.
Extremely well recorded in Potton Hall in Suffolk, Bavouzet’s Yamaha enables him to bring ideal clarity to these elegant works, without inviting the dreaded adjective ‘analytic’. Listening to this disc over a period of several weeks, I am astonished each time by the freshness of what I am hearing. Warmly recommended.