> HAYDN Esterhazy Sonatas Vol 1 Brautigam [CC]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Esterházy Sonatas, Volume 1 (Complete Solo Keyboard Music Volume 6).
Keyboard Sonatas – No. 35 in A flat, HobXVI/43; No. 36 in C, HobXVI/21; No. 37 in E, HobXVI/22; No. 38 in F, HobXVI/23.

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano).
Recorded in Länna Church, Sweden in August 1999 [DDD]
BIS CD1095 [70.28]


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Ronald Brautigam continues his series of Haydn keyboard sonatas with this excellent offering, which includes three of the so-called ‘Esterházy Sonatas’ (Nos. 36-41 were published in a volume entitled ‘Six Sonatas for Prince Esterházy’ in February 1774).

No. 35 in A flat is of dubious authorship, splitting historical musicologists in this regard. It was published in 1783 in London by Beardmore and Birchall. It is notable for its absence of slow movement: a brief Menuetto and Trio (in which Brautigam makes the most of colouring the various registral shifts) separates a characterful Allegro and a playful, pointed Rondo finale.

All of the Esterházy Sonatas include substantial slow movements that considerably broaden the available emotional spectrum. It is to these that Brautigam seems most attracted to: his playing is always suave and involving. Playing on a brightly coloured McNulty copy of a late eighteenth century Walter instrument (the tone of which is excellently captured by BIS’s Ingo Petry), he responds to the harmonic twists and turns in a way which renders the music consistently fascinating (and Haydn’s Sonatas really can appear dull in the wrong hands). Similarly, the predominantly two-part textures of the first movement of No. 36 never lose their way.

Brautigam’s way with the opening Allegro moderato of Sonata No. 37 is almost orchestral in his confident presentation of material. Small but telling tempo fluctuations make all the difference to the ebb and flow of the argument. The more interior Andante which follows provides further evidence of Brautigam’s sensitivity. Of the three Esterházy Sonatas on the disc, this is the only one which ends with a ‘Tempo di Menuet’: here it is the very essence of civility, a successful alternative to a jaunty final scamper around the keyboard.

The Sonata No. 38 is the one piece on this disc which overlaps with Joanna Leach’s latest offering on the Athene label (ATHCD22). Leach plays on a Stodart square piano of 1823, and students of pianos of this period may wish to acquire it for this reason: but in terms of sheer musicianship, Brautigam is simply in another league. In particular, the flowing, improvisatory feel he lends the Adagio places him, emotionally, on a totally different level, but overall he seems to capture the essence of Haydn in a way she cannot. His witty playing, not for the first time on this disc, brought to mind the playing of Alfred Brendel, whose championing of Haydn’s solo keyboard output (on the modern piano) has itself brought much joy. Brautigam takes the finale at a true Presto, emphasising the joyous nature of the piece and bringing a sense of joie de vivre Leach cannot hope to attain. His articulation and rhythmic sense are beyond reproach.

Brautigam is a player whose thoughtful and scholarly approach (based on the Wiener Urtext edition) includes an awareness of the many sides of Haydn’s expressive world. This disc will bring repeated pleasure.


Colin Clarke

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