Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs Haydn’s Piano Sonatas: Volume 6

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Haydn
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 6: No. 11 in B flat, Hob.XVI:2; No. 34 in D, Hob.XVI:33; No. 35 in A flat, Hob.XVI:43; No. 36 in C, Hob.XVI:21; No. 43 in E flat, Hob.XVI:28
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10942

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Haydn’s Sonata No. 11 in B flat dates from around 1760 when he was still in his twenties. Originally entitled Partita and probably intended for harpsichord teaching purposes, the score contains no dynamics – a mere primitive precursor, one might assume, to his far more original later piano sonatas. Yet, under Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s supple fingers, it proves a delight. By subtle shading of dynamics, minutely varying the rhythmic pacing and adding spritely touches of decoration to repeat sections, he reveals the piece to be packed with bright invention, with a touch of gravity in its slow movement. Hans Keller used to argue that ‘Performance is the tail-end of creation’ – meaning that a composition is not truly finished until realised in an imaginative interpretation. Here is a lovely instance.

None of the other choices in this latest volume of Bavouzet’s on-going series is among Haydn’s better-known sonatas. Indeed, one or two scholars have doubted whether the A flat major Sonata is by Haydn at all – though it is difficult to imagine what other composer of the time could have come up with its witty rondo finale. And from the way the plaintively meandering slow movement of the D major Sonata flows directly into its amiable minuet finale to the obsessively jumpy rhythms of the C major Sonata’s opening movement, the music is full of surprises, deftly and affectionately delivered. The recorded piano sound is clear, firm and even and the length of the programme generous enough to require a second disc.

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Bayan Northcott