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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 7
Sonata No. 8 in A major, Hob.XVI: 5 (1760) [13:47]
Sonata No. 46 in E major, Hob.XVI: 31 (1776) [11:49]
Sonata No. 13 in G major, Hob.XVI: 6 (1760) [16:45]
Sonata No. 57 in F major, Hob.XVI: 47 (1790) [19:21]
Sonata No. 58 in C major, Hob.XVI: 48 (1790) [12:26]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
rec. 2017, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
CHANDOS CHAN10998 [72:42]

Here in Volume 7 of his Haydn sonatas recordings for Chandos, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet presents music from either end of the composer's career. He plays on a modern piano rather than a harpsichord or a fortepiano. In fact the excellent booklet contains not only full information about the instrument - a 'Yamaha model CFX nine-foot Concert Grand' - but includes photographs too. What is most important of course is not so much the piano but rather the way that it is played; and in this regard it is no surprise that Bazouzet has received so many plaudits for his Haydn performances.

The earliest of these sonatas is the G major Hob. XVI: 6, which probably dates from around 1760, when Haydn was just making the significant move of his career, to take up his appointment with the Esterházy court at Eisenstadt. Cast in four movements rather than the usual two or three, the sonata has the subtitle Partita, suggesting baroque influences that are borne out in the music itself.

It is no exaggeration to believe that Bazouzet's Haydn project has played an important part in reassessing the composer's achievement, alongside, for example, the performances of Alfred Brendel, Paul Lewis and, on Hyperion, Marc-André Hamelin. This does not diminish the significance of the celebrated symphonies and string quartets of course, but it is also true that Haydn left an important body of keyboard music, well worth its place alongside the other masters of the era.

Haydn's musical range in these sonatas provides a constant source of enjoyment, and even surprise. For example, the E major Sonata No. 31 of 1776 sets a serene atmosphere in its opening Moderato movement, which is followed by a three-part invention that might be a homage to Bach, and by a finale that abounds in Haydn's familiar wit and imagination. All these characteristics are skilfully projected by Bavouzet.

The recorded sound of the Yamaha piano is always pleasing, enhanced as it is by Bavouzet's well-judged decorations. As such, the slighter earlier works such as the Divertimento of Sonata No. 8, really gain in terms of wit and imagination, and in this particular case lay claim to an authenticity that has been doubted by some commentators.

As in all the genres in which he worked, the sonatas reveal that whatever the interest found in the earlier compositions, Haydn's genius grew in confidence as he grew older. Accordingly the greatest musical reward in this collection will be found in the Sonata No. 58 in C major, composed around 1790, just at the time he was leaving his Esterházy position after some thirty years.

Terry Barfoot

Previous review: Michael Greenhalgh (Recording of the Month)

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