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Lyrita New Recording
Sarah Beth Briggs
Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
The Complete Piano Sonatas - Vol. 6
Piano sonata in E minor, Hob.XVI: 47 (before 1766) [10:23]
Piano sonata in E flat major, Hob.XVI: 45 (before 1766) [18:48]
Piano sonata in D major, Hob.XVI: 51 (1795) [5:28]
Piano sonata in C major, Hob.XVI: 48 (1789) [12:02]
Piano sonata in E minor, Hob.XVI: 34 (1778) [13:27]*
rec. 26-27 May 1997, Studio Burgenland, Eisenstadt, 29 April
1998, Studio Baumgarten, Vienna*. DDD
keyboard sonatas are nowhere near as well known as they ought
to be. He was not a virtuoso pianist of the order of Clementi,
Mozart or Beethoven, but he was not unskilled at the keyboard. His
keyboard sonatas were primarily vehicles for his own performance
and they are gems, full of interest, wit and lovely lyricism. This
disc is the sixth of nine in a complete set of the sonatas
recorded by Austrian pianist Roland Batik in the 1990s. It
appears that they have been waiting until now for their first
had not encountered Roland Batik before hearing this disc. He
studied with Friedrich Gulda, among others, and made his debut
as a pianist in 1978. For six years until 1988 he formed one
half of a piano duo with Paul Gulda, before deciding to go
his own way. As well as playing and recording classical repertoire,
he continues to play with a jazz trio he founded in the late
1970s and is increasingly pursuing a career as a composer. All
of this information comes from the brief but helpful liner
notes. Originally in German, they are also rendered in English,
though the translation is pitted with minor errors.
is an excellent Haydn pianist. The overall impression of these
recordings is one of delicacy and gentle wit. Throughout these
performances he maintains Haydn’s long lyrical lines with limpid
legato phrasing. Batik's articulation is precise, but never
too hard edged and his dynamic control is superb – he coaxes
wonderful pianissimi, like distant bells, from his keyboard
in the andante of the C major sonata, for example. His choice
of a mellow-toned Bösendorfer 275 suits his approach. The
recorded sound is also warmly supportive, perhaps a touch more
immediate in the sonata Hob.XVI: 34, which was recorded separately.
plays the opening larghetto of the E minor sonata Hob.XVI:
47 with delicacy, a firm pulse and rhetorical integrity. The
allegro and the final minuet are nicely proportioned.
opening moderato of the following E flat major sonata is moved
along by firm bass voices. The central andante is poised,
with generous but not overindulgent touches of pedal to keep
the bass notes lingering under the right hand's delicate figurations.
andante of the D major has an understated courtly grandeur
and that gentle wit, and the following presto is charming.
andante of the following C major sonata is entirely lovely. Batik
takes the "con espressione" marking very much
to heart and is quite free in the final bars. He clearly enjoys
the darker colours of the modulated minor section of the dancing
opening of the E minor sonata Hob.XVI: 34 is strongly characterised. The
adagio has a sense of freedom and in the final vivace molto
Batik’s dancing fingers remain true to Haydn's innocentemente marking.
listened to the disc several times through, I cross compared
the D major and C major sonatas with András Schiff’s roughly
contemporaneous recordings on Warner Classics (2564 60807-2
60677-2 respectively), and the E minor sonata Hob.XVI:
34 with Brendel (Philips 475 7185) and Schiff again.
each case I preferred Schiff and Brendel, but not by much. Schiff
finds more contrast and colour in the D major sonata and generates
greater excitement in the presto in particular. In the C major,
Schiff is more involving, playing with greater fantasy.
Batik captures the Sturm und Drang mood of the E minor
sonata Hob.XVI: 34, Brendel and Schiff are even more effective. Both
are more probing in the opening presto and more free in their
rubato, so that Brendel takes 5:55 over this movement and Schiff
takes 5:41 to Batik’s 3:48, without either really feeling slower. Brendel
is more exploratory with the rising arpeggios in the left hand,
more characterful with the answers given by the right hand. Schiff's
approach, even more contrasted dynamically, is similar. While
Batik’s adagio is delightfully free, Brendel's contrasting
articulation and colouring is more striking and Schiff finds
more wit. Brendel and Schiff are both more exciting in the
finale too, though here it is a closer race between the three.
and Schiff are more interesting and engaging overall, but there
is no denying the sheer beauty and polish of Batik's pianism
and his affection for Haydn. This is Haydn playing that caresses
the ear … perfect late night listening.
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