Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Hob.XVI – No. 48 in C, No. 49 in E flat, No. 50 in C, No. 52 in E flat

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Hob.XVI – No. 48 in C, No. 49 in E flat, No. 50 in C, No. 52 in E flat
PERFORMER: Alain Planès (piano)


Haydn’s piano sonatas can often look startlingly bare on the page. These two releases amply demonstrate the variety of approach his structures can support and the feeling and colour they can be induced to yield.

Of the two pianists, Alain Planès, recorded in the more resonant acoustic, is also the more ‘poetic’; often slower in his tempos and more inflected in nuance, finding at times an almost Schubertian spaciousness. He also uses more sustaining pedal and occasionally takes questionable liberties with the text – as when he fills out the bare octave transition to the development of the opening movement of No. 62 with arpeggiated chords. Yet there is no lack of energy and sparkle in the livelier music.

Marc-André Hamelin is, on the face of it, generally brisker, crisper, more ‘objective’ in approach – fining down his vast reserves of virtuosity to a luminous evenness of touch and a wonderful lightness in his decorations and runs. Yet, in comparison with Planès, his account of the Adagio of the E flat, HobXVI:49, has a tenderness of its own. And while his account of the unsettling F minor Variations knocks a startling three minutes off the timing of Gary Cooper’s account reviewed here in the July issue, it proves quite as intense.

This second volume of Hamelin’s Haydn sonatas is also valuable in netting some of the middle period works that are less well known than the grand late bunch recorded by Planès.


A word of warning: the Harmonia Mundi disc, in addition to the Hoboken catalogue citations, uses the extended numbering – up to No. 62 – of the Christa Landon edition of the sonatas. The Hyperion uses only the Hoboken references, but in his notes, Richard Wigmore refers to the older, pre-Landon numbering, up to 51. However he writes about the sonatas not in the order they appear on the discs but according to when they were probably composed, which is different again. All very confusing. Bayan Northcott