Haydn: Piano Concerto in F; Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto in D

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COMPOSERS: Haydn
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Concerto in F; Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Emanuel Ax (piano); Franz Liszt CO/Ax
CATALOGUE NO: SK 48383 DDD
‘I was no wizard on any instrument, but I knew the potentialities and effects of them all,’ Haydn told his biographer. Unlike Mozart and Beethoven he had no need to produce concertos to perform himself in public, but he wrote a considerable number of them – and for a wide variety of instruments. The three works on this disc are Haydn’s only surviving keyboard concertos other than early works for organ. They would have been played on either a harpsichord or the fast-developing fortepiano, and in style they fall somewhere between the Baroque concertos of JS Bach and the Classical model which developed through his sons CPE and JC Bach to reach maturity in the masterpieces of Mozart.

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Emanuel Ax gives highly enjoyable performances on a modern instrument, keeping his playing in scale despite being slightly forwardly placed by the recording. His rapid passagework in outer movements has superb clarity, expressiveness is kept within bounds in the slow ones, and he embellishes tastefully. It’s a pity the wind instruments are omitted from the G major Concerto (losing an attractive oboe solo at the start of the second movement), but the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra makes up for any loss of character with spirited accompaniment, directed from the keyboard. Just try the Rondo all’ Ungarese of the D major and you’ll be hooked.David Michaels