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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Variations & Pieces for Piano
Ekaterina Derzhavina (piano)
rec. 2016, Großer Sendesaal, Saarländischer Rundfunk, Saarbrücken, Germany
PROFIL PH19027 [46:30+54:54]

Recorded over a 10-year period, Ekaterina Derzhavina’s 2013 9-CD set of Haydn’s Piano Sonatas on Profil was highly praised. Staying with Haydn, the Russian pianist has now turned her attention to the variations and miscellaneous pieces on a double-CD collection.

Haydn, unlike Mozart and Beethoven, was no piano virtuoso, yet he produced over 50 piano sonatas. He wrote regularly for the solo instrument throughout most of his long career. It israther unfair to this prolific composer that his accomplishment for the piano draws far less attention than the symphonies, string quartets and piano trios. Ekaterina Derzhavina’s new release mops up most or all of the remaining works for solo piano, written over a 32-year period. Here, it seems, there are nine works all written specifically for the piano, and four sets of piano arrangements of works that were originally movements from a symphony, string quartet, piano trio and mechanical clock.

The longest work at over 18 minutes, the Variations in A major, Hob. XVII:2, is an amusing and generally upbeat score. Haydn wrote two versions. Derzhavina plays a combination of the two, 21 variations in her own sequence. At nearly 15 minutes, the Variations in E flat major, Hob. XVII:3 in Derzhavina’s performance feel cultured, with a rather deliberate quality. The Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6 – originally described in the manuscript as a sonata – take just over 12 minutes to perform. In this stylish and polished work, Derzhavina plays with considerable artistry, with a predominantly serious character.

Of the shorter works, in the Fantasia in C major, Hob XVII:4 Derzhavina performs with considerable vitality. The Adagio in G major, a piano arrangement of the second movement of the Piano Trio No. 36, Hob. XV:22, has a charming melody, and is a sheer delight in Derzhavina’s hands. Highly attractive too is the playing of the Variations in G major, Hob. III:77/II, a piano arrangement of the Poco adagio, cantabile movement of the String Quartet No. 62 in C major ‘Emperor’. The movement contains a set of variations on ‘Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser’ (‘God Save Emperor Franz’) Haydn’s ‘Emperor’s Hymn’, the theme once used in the Austrian national anthem, and now in the German national anthem.

These scores are fine examples of Haydn’s undoubted inventive artistry and often sparkling sense of humour. Derzhavina is in remarkable form. One senses her close affinity with the music. A gifted and insightful artist, she has immaculate control, and plays with no self-consciousness. The studio recording is fairly close, with excellent clarity and balance, and an attractive tone of the Steinway D concert grand. The booklet notes are quite helpful, although I would have welcomed additional information on the works.

This is simply outstanding piano playing of the highest integrity. It should delight both admirers of the piano and of Haydn in particular.

Michael Cookson

CD 1
1. Capriccio in G major, Hob. XVII:1 (1765) [7:34]
2. Variations in A major, Hob. XVII:2 (1765) [18:07]
3. Variations in E flat major, Hob. XVII:3 (c. 1774) [14:34]
4. Fantasia in C major, Hob XVII:4 (1789) [5:50]
CD 2
1. 6 Variations Agréables et Faciles in C major, Hob. XVII:5 (1790) [7:59]
2. Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6 (1793) [12:07]
3. Variations in D major, Hob. XVII:7 (c. 1766) [4:41]
4. Adagio in G major, Hob. XV 22/II)
(Piano arrangement of second movement Piano Trio, No. 36, c. 1792) [5.21]
5. Variations in C minor (‘La Roxelane’), Hob. I:63 [4:44]
(Piano arrangement from Symphony No. 63 in C major, Hob. I:63: II. La Roxelane. Allegretto. Più Tosto Allegro, 1779/81)
6. Allegretto in G major, Hob. XVII:10 [1:47]
(Piano arrangement of Hob. XIX:27 for musical clock, 1793)
7. Adagio in F major, Hob. XVII:9 [3:18]
8. Variationen in G major Über ‘Gott Erhalte’, Hob. III:77/II
(Piano arrangement of String Quartet in C major, Hob. III:77 ‘Emperor’: II. Poco Adagio Cantabile, 1797) [5:24]
9. 12 German Dances, Hob. IX:12 originally for piano (1792) [8:46]

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