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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Historical Recordings, 1961-76.
Keyboards Sonatas – C, HobXVI:1 (c1750-55) [7’18]; C, HobXVI:3 (1767) [8’45]; D, HobXVI4 (1766) [5’35]; C, HobXVI:7 (before 1766) [4’43]; G, HobXVI:8 (before 1766) [4’34]; E minor, HobXVI:34 (1780) [10’’45]; D, HobXVI:37 (1780) [9’46]; G minor (1778) [8’26]; A flat, HobXVI:46 (1778) [14’59].
Maria Bergman (piano).
Rec. 1961-76 in the Hans Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. ADD

Maria Bergmann was clearly an artist of versatility as well as integrity. She also recorded Schoenberg (Pierrot) with Hans Rosbaud (Wergo 6403-2: now deleted), and Boulez with the composer. Such was obviously the diversity available in Baden-Baden at the time (and also part of the burden of being a ‘radio pianist’). The booklet attests to the severity of her schedule (more appropriate to a sweat-shop than a radio studio: the SWR computer registers 2700 hits for the search criterion ‘Maria Bergman’, apparently). In addition to solo work, she accompanied around 160 artists of the calibre of Souzay, Grumiaux, Starker …. That these Haydn Sonatas emerge with such easy spontaneity and freshness is all the more remarkable, therefore.

This is much more than merely a historical document. This recording constitutes her ‘çomplete’ Haydn discography: some nine sonatas in all. Pinpointing the date of composition of the earlier ones has to be approximate, but there is nothing approximate about the performance. The freshness of the opening C major, HobXVI:1 is a fine exemplar of Bergmann’s art. The touch is light and stylish, the articulation always clean, left hand always even (Track 1). Neither is Bergmann afraid of projecting the grander emotions. Take her handling of the Largo e sostenuto slow movement of the D major, HobXVI:37 (Track 20). Bergmann imbues the music with a Handelian breadth of utterance. In fact, the slow movements in general are of particular interest on this disc. In lesser hands they can descend to the insubstantial, but never here, whether the dominant emotion be the tendresse of HobXVI:3 or the almost mesmeric tension of the Adagio of HobXVI:46. Bergmann’s conviction is beyond criticism.

Finales can be a particular delight: try the busy, delightful final movement of HobXVI:8 in G (Track 15). Whatever the movement, tempi just feel right, surely the product of prolonged study. How many pianists these days can boast of Haydn as enjoyable as this and yet be equally at home with Henze, Stravinsky, Boulez and Stockhausen, I wonder?.

One small point: it dates me and makes me feel old to hear recordings from as late as 1976 classified as ‘historical’. Either classifications are widening or I am hurtling towards the Great Unknown faster than I feared ..

Whatever, this is a box of delights, and one can only hope fervently for more Bergmann from Haenssler.

Colin Clarke

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