> Joseph Haydn - Esterházy Sonatas [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Esterházy Sonatas (1773-74)
Sonata No. 33 in C minor, Hob.XVI/20 (1771)
Sonata No. 39 in D major, Hob.XVI/24 (1774)
Sonata No. 40 in E flat major, Hob.XVI/25 (1774)
Sonata No. 41 in A major, Hob.XVI/26 (1774)
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Rec August 2000, Lünna Church, Sweden


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Haydn composed prolifically during his thirty years in the employ of the Esterházy family, and these sonatas reflect his work at Eisenstadt in the early 1770s. Ronald Brautigam is an experienced performer in the early classical repertoire, and he plays a fortepiano made in 1992 by Paul McNaulty of Amsterdam, modelled on an example by Anton Walter, dating from 1795.

The sound of the instrument and the style of the playing are nothing if not authentic. In fact the artistry is such that the enterprise soon seems entirely natural, both in terms of sound and tempi and phrasing. Praise indeed.

The 'odd one out' among these four pieces is the earliest: the C minor Sonata, because it was composed a little earlier than the others (1771, not 1774). Stylistically this makes little difference, but the nature of the development and the general organisation of the music brings a more extended and open ended approach. The first movement plays for a full twelve minutes, am astonishingly long time for a keyboard movement in 1771. The reason for this is a classic example of Haydn's admission that he 'was cut off from the world, and therefore forced to be original'. For the basic sonata structure gives way to an interpolated fantasia, to create a large and flexible form.

Brautigam is second to none in articulating such music at an appropriate tempo, and this pays dividends in all the pieces recorded here. The other three pieces - in D major, E flat major and A major - were among a set of six published by Kurzbäck in Vienna in 1774 with the inscription: 'Six Sonatas for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy'. Yet while they share the three movement construction in common, in truth Haydn gives each its own identity, such is his evident genius.

The first movement of the D major Sonata is a classic Haydn structure, to all intents and purposes monothematic in a rapid 3/4 time. The concluding Presto is a test for any pianist's dexterity, a test Brautigam passes with flying colours.

The E flat Sonata has only two movements: Tempo Moderato and Minuet, playing for some ten minutes in total. The first movement has a certain formality, while the second lacks a central contrasting trio and is therefore quite short. Brautigam again articulates the music to perfection, but even he struggles to convince that this piece is entirely successful

Th A major Sonata is notable for its wide ranging developments, which Brautigam explores with tight articulation but subtle phrasing. The Presto finale is astonishingly short, playing for a mere 44 seconds!

With a master such as Haydn, any new recording will uncover riches, and so it proves here. While the music cannot rank among the master's greatest works, it is full of imagination on every page, and Brautigam is a sane and reliable guide. Full marks too should go to the BIS engineers for their sensitive and atmospheric recorded sound.

Terry Barfoot

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