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Nadia Reisenberg. The acclaimed Haydn recordings
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Sonata No. 13 in G major Hob XVI; 6 (1766)
Fantasia in C major Hob XVII; 4 (1789)
Sonata No. 62 in E flat major Hob XVI; 52 (1794)
Tema con Variazioni in C major Hob XVII; 5 (1791)
Sonata No. 50 in D major Hob XVI; 37 (1780)
Arietta con variazioni in A major Hob XVII; 2 (1771)
Sonata No. 53 in E minor Hob XVI; 34 (1784)
Capriccio in G major Hob XVII; 1 (1765)
Sonata No. 35 in A flat major Hob XVI; 43 (1783)
Arietta con Variazioni in E flat major Hob XVII; 3 (1774)
Sonata No. 60 in C major Hob XVI; 50 (1794/95)
Andante Varié in F minor hob XVII; 6 (1793)
Nadia Reisenberg (piano)
Recorded in New York 1955-1958
IVORY CLASSICS 70806 [2 CDs 147.52]


Nadia Reisenberg was born in Vilnius in 1904. She studied in St Petersburg with Leonid Nikolaev, who also taught Shostakovich, before leaving around the time of the Revolution, eventually making her way to New York. There she studied with the Liszt student Alexander Lambert and later with Josef Hofmann. Concert soloist, recitalist and teacher Reisenberg died in 1983. Ivory Classics have here reissued her three Westminster LPs, originally recorded between 1955-58 and devoted to her Haydn readings. They were made before the Christa Landon edition was published so the editions used were of their time. Nevertheless these are tremendously compelling examples of superior pianism – and not simply Haydn pianism. Her impulse toward precise articulation means that you will find few examples of exaggeration, either in matters of tempo or dynamics. The last emerges as perfectly natural and not at all mechanically constricted. She is a romanticist, certainly, but an astute one. Her first movements tend to be energetic but elegant, her slow movements vested with real expressivity, her finales full of verve. Indeed in almost all performances one finds examples of a consummately lyrical but immaculately aware mind at work.

Thus for example one can admire the genial left hand pointing in the Minuet of the G major Sonata or the beautiful diminuendi she makes in the repeated phrases of that sonata’s Adagio. She can be robust, as in the Fantasia in C major, and she can charm – listen to the opening movement of the E flat major sonata. Her fingerwork in the Adagio is a well nigh perfect instrument for conveying sensitive lines, her communicative generosity reaching an apogee in the same work’s Presto finale, the line kept constantly and invigoratingly alive. She doesn’t overplay the etched humour of the finale of the D major sonata preferring instead to infer than to parade. The contrasts she makes between forte passages in the opening movement of one of the most impressive of the sonatas, the E minor, No 53 is consistently illuminating. And if the slow movement seems somewhat under inflected here it is nevertheless sensitive. The finale is certainly full of the most delicious voicings, rippling left hand, filigree right, marvellously alive and inventive. The sense of just momentum generated internally, as it were, is evident in the Rondo finale of the A flat sonata in which the melodic curve is splendidly delineated. Her trills in the E flat major Arietta con Variazioni are perfectly weighted and she abjures over-sentimentalising here and elsewhere. Her pointing is superb and in the Allegro of the C major sonata, No 60, she can run from felicitous treble to a stuttering bombastic bass without cocking an eyebrow or turning a hair. And so in the finale she can turn her hand to a fine and sturdy Allegro, running the gamut of technical flourishes with utter security.

All in all I would be strongly tempted to recommend this Ivory Classics double to those yet to be smitten by Haydn’s piano music. Irrespective of the year of publication of these discs, irrespective of the edition used, these enlivening, elucidatory and generous performances resound down nearly fifty years of recorded history; they were something of a revelation to me and earn an early place in my Record of the Year selection.

Jonathan Woolf

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