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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 5
Piano Sonata No.15 (Hob. XV1:13) [10:40]
Piano Sonata No.12 (Hob. XV1:12) [10:48]
Piano Sonata No.37 (Hob. XV1:22) [13:12]
Piano Sonata No.54 (Hob. XV1:40) [10:23]
Piano Sonata No.55 (Hob. XV1:41) [10:44]
Piano Sonata No.56 (Hob. XV1:42) [12:32]
Bonus Track [2:25]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, 21-23 February 2012 (Sonata No. 12)
and 21-23 September 2012 (all other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10763 [75:09]

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first four instalments of Bavouzet’s projected cycle of the Haydn piano sonatas (see reviews of Volume 2 and Volume 3), I was overjoyed when this CD arrived for review. As each volume appears, Bavouzet goes from strength to strength. Listening to the earlier volumes, I was so impressed, it spurred me on to resurrect and mug up on some of the sonatas I’d learned many years ago.
Haydn composed his piano sonatas between 1750 and 1795 and, for reasons unknown, avoided the genre for the remaining fourteen years of his life. His influences were the harpsichord style of Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715-1777) in the early works up until 1760. C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788) was a later voice and the development of the Broadwood pianos Haydn came across in London in the 1780s also had its impact. Together with his symphonies and string quartets, we can see in the piano sonata oeuvre, Haydn’s contribution to the evolution of sonata form.
On this CD, Bavouzet offers us a selection of earlier and later sonatas. As in the previous volumes, one gets the immediate impression that he clearly loves these works and plays them with great commitment. They are marked out with stylish phrasing and crisp and incisive playing. Repeats are ornamented and all embellishments are in style, tastefully done and with great attention to detail. Some may find his tempi rather brisk, but I find they work and are well judged. What I like with these sonatas is the infectious wit, the vigour, the joie de vivre and the pervasive element of surprise.
Although Haydn’s piano sonatas have never had the enduring popularity and exposure to the concert-going public as those of Mozart and Beethoven there are, nevertheless, some excellent Haydn sonata recordings out there. I first got to know these works with the ‘ground-breaking’ survey of John McCabe issued on Decca (443785). This was followed by a selection of eleven sonatas and shorter pieces recorded by Alfred Brendel (Philips 416 643) on four CDs. Schiff, Hamelin, Jandó and Buchbinder have also made valuable contributions to the discography.
The Potton Hall acoustic lends a bright, sonorous ambience to the proceedings. Documentation is spot-on, setting the works in a historical context. Bavouzet contributes his own enlightening thoughts.
Chandos offer a Haydn series marked by great distinction. I hope that the next volume will not be too long delayed.
Stephen Greenbank