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Sonatas (Vol.4) Nos. 32, 34, 42-44
Ronald Brautigan (fortepiano)
BIS 1093[78.23]
Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

These five piano sonatas (that term is used in the booklets for this series to avoid 'stylistic inelegance') are suitable for any keyboard instrument; Haydn was not fussy and never specified particular instruments (some early editions even added 'avec violin ad libitum' as do some of Mozart's also!). Keyboard players of the time had access to harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano, and the music is strong enough to go well on any of those - and even on modern pianos, though those have begun to sound anachronistic nowadays, and I find the necessary adjustment to a Steinway unrewarding.

Ronald Brautigan plays a fine Walter copy made in Amsterdam, and it has the capacity to respond to all the subtlety of expressive nuance required. He varies his touch and has a flexible rubato manner, never exaggerated. Brautigan revels in Haydn's virtuoso flourishes and is as expressive as you could wish in the ornamented adagio of No. 44, which sonata I recommend for a sampling by any sceptical reader. In the presto finale of No 43 there is a teasing ambiguity before the barring becomes clear.

The BIS series is to include the 62 fully authenticated sonatas (some are lost; others dubious) and some of his other piano works. Dating of Haydn's sonatas remains surprisingly difficult. Nos 42-44 come from the late 1760s to mid '70s. Possible dates for Nos. 32 & 34 cover the same period, and the scholars are still in debate.

The essay by Julius Wender is illuminating, whether helping us to sort out the musicological complexities or discussing Haydn's curiosity and religious nature (he determined to compose The Creation after looking through Herschel's telescope); another anecdote illustrates his sense of humour (Haydn would have liked to have gone to Paris to conduct a memorial Mass scheduled after a premature rumour of his death).

Well played and recorded, with impeccable production throughout. .

Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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