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De l’aurore au zénith
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Sonatas: No. 11 in B flat, HobXVI:2 (c1760) [15:08]; No. 59 in E flat, HobXVI:49 (1789/90) [18:09]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonatas: No. 4 in E flat, K282/K189g (1775) (15:12); No. 17 in B flat, K570 (1789) [19:36]
Claude-Marie Le Guay (piano).
rec. Salle Akustika, Paris, 27-30 September 1994. DDD
ACCORD SACD 476 9154   [68:05] 



‘From Dawn to the Zenith’ is the title of this delightful disc. The French pianist Claude-Marie Le Guay is a highly talented musician who here juxtaposes Haydn and Mozart in an attempt to show their differences as much as to show their kinship. It makes for fascinating listening; By the way, the review title does not reflect the playing order as the Haydn sonatas frame the two Mozarts. 

The first sonata to be heard is the Haydn B flat. Le Guay is clearly trying to project a carefree demeanor but what appeals most is the exploratory feeling. The Largo contains some magical moments. The right-hand projection of melody is perfectly judged. The recording, too, helps. It is crystal clear yet there is a warmth there, too - Producer and Editor is the experienced Nicolas Bartholomée. Nods in the direction of Domenico Scarlatti in the ornamentation of the finale are very effective. 

Mozart’s Sonata, K282 begins with a slow movement. Le Guay’s playing reflects the daring desolation of the musical surface. Lili Kraus, recently reissued on Music & Arts CD1001, finds even more depth, though. And does Le Guay over-egg her pudding at around the thirty second mark? I believe she is attempting a pianistic cri de coeur here. The Menuettos are actually just as desolate as the first movement here, leaving the finale to find some semblance of joy in life.

The later K570 is a magnificent work. The notes of Le Guay’s opening octave statement are not quite as connected as I would like, but there is much to admire in the first movement: accompaniments are clearly very carefully weighted. Unfortunately Le Guay pecks at the staccato too much in the finale. Finally, the second Haydn offering, the famous late E flat, so beloved of Brendel  - whose Philips recording remains an eye-opening experience, 416 6432. Le Guay can be a trifle clumsy in the first movement, yet her delicate slow movement almost makes up for this. Her finale is blessed with an almost organ-like bass but it is here that more of Brendel’s cheeky humour is required.

There is no doubting Le Guay’s talent. Intriguingly, her discography includes a disc of the Dutilleux, Bartók and Carter piano sonatas (see her Universal website). It will be interesting to track her career trajectory.

Colin Clarke







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