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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Variations

Twenty Variations in G Major, Hob.XVII:2, (1765) [17í00"]
Theme and Variations in C Major, Hob.XVII:5; (1790) [6í31"]
Capriccio in G Major; Hob. XVII:1 (1765 ) [7í10"]
Arietta con 12 variazoni, Hob. XVII:3 (1768-70) [16í04"]
Variations on Gott erhalte (after Hob:77) (c.1797) [8í02"]
Divertimento: Il Maestro e lo Scolare, Hob.XVIIa:1 (for piano four hands) (1766-1768) [11í26"]
Jano Jando (piano)
Zsuzsa Kollar (piano)
rec. April 1996, Unitarian Church, Budapest, Hungary. DDD
NAXOS 8.553972 [66í11"]

The first question here is whatís wrong with this disc? It was recorded in 1996 and released only now.

This is a highly competent selection of Haydnís keyboard music most of which was written for the harpsichord. Later works were intended for the pianoforte. These variations are in addition to his 47 sonatas. Haydn is undervalued as a piano composer despite the advocacy of masters such as Schiff and Brendel. There are now at least four sets of the complete sonatas and Jando has recorded many of these. Single discs of the variations are rare and the value of this recording is therefore considerable.

The Twenty Variations in G major was written in about 1765 and in 1788-1789 abridged, re-arranged and transposed to the key of A major for publication (Naxos 8.553826).There is also a splendid performance by John McCabe as part of his 12 CD set (Decca). The theme is one of great simplicity in the form of a dance and Jando plays it with just the right amount of charm. The tune reminded me of Mozartís early divertimento (K131), much loved by Beecham.

Haydnís Theme and Variations in C major from around November 1790 was written shortly before the composer left for his visit to London for the "Saloman"concerts. This piece is more demanding than "20 variations" and is a teaching work. It is very well played with the odd intrusion of pianist vocalise.

The Capriccio in G major was written in 1765. Iím puzzled why we are jumping about chronologically. The detailed notes tell us itís based on a folk song which must qualify in the bizarre titles league: Acht Sauschneider müssen sein (There must be eight to castrate a boar!). This is a happy piece and well executed by Jando with no hint of routine.

1768ís Arietta con 12 Variazioni, in the key of E flat major, is based on the Minuet of his Quartet, Op. 9, and No. 2 - dismissed by Hans Keller as a primitive work-splendidly played by the Angeles Quartet on Philips. The development of the variations is inventive and makes me wonder why Haydnís piano music isnít better known. This is delightful to listen to and must be fun to play. Some may prefer a harpsichord but I like the sound conjured up here.

The title Variations on "Gott erhalte", will mean little to the general public but the tune will. This is Haydnís own keyboard arrangement of the variations on the Emperorís Hymn that he had included in his String Quartet in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, written in 1797. It became the Austrian and later the German National Anthem. The variations are those in the quartet and works very well for the piano. As the standout piece on this disc I donít understand why the cover doesnít make it clearer what the music is based on Poor old Haydn!

Haydnís F major Divertimento: Il Maestro e lo Scolare (The Master and the Pupil), for piano duet is from 1766-1768. The material apparently appears in a Baryton Trio of about 1767. Written for teaching purposes, my first thought was that the theme was reminiscent of Handelís "The Harmonious Blacksmith". This only adds to its charm as far as Iím concerned. I think this would work well for a teacher and a promising pupil as the master plays first and the pupil follows. This was fun unlike some four hand music.

In summary this is an enterprising selection of music that deserves greater recognition. I loved it and would recommend this disc as a very good introduction to Haydnís variations. I still donít know why itís been "in the can" for ten years!

David R Dunsmore

see also review by Glyn Pursglove



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