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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Late Piano Works
Sonata in C Major, Hob.XVI:48 (1789) [13:33]
Variations in G major, ‘Gott erhalte (1799) [5:30]
Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:49 (1789/90) [20:22]
Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII:6 (1793) [15:35]
Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:52 (1794) [22:02]
Gary Cooper (fortepiano)
rec. November 2008, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer, Netherlands. DDD
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA26509 [77:51]
Experience Classicsonline

Gary Cooper is a specialist in using original keyboards or modern copies of the corresponding period. Here he uses a fortepiano by an anonymous maker from the period around 1785. For the uninitiated the fortepiano sound is very different to that of the modern grand piano that would typically be used today. Some listeners will undoubtedly find the fortepiano a refreshing change favouring the authenticity of the sound that Haydn would have been familiar with. However, the sound will certainly not be to everyone's taste. I am a devotee of performances on period instruments, although, I can understand why the fortepiano was felt by many as an instrument most deserving of improvement; consequently falling out of favour. I have heard fortepianos that at times have sounded like a cross between a pub piano and a banjo. Here Cooper's carefully chosen Viennese instrument has a distinctive yet rich and appealing timbre; never harsh and abrasive. For this recording I was fascinated to read how he has, "decided to use late C18th tuning with which Haydn and his contemporaries would have been totally familiar." (‘Haydn’, Pellegrini and Cudahy, New York (1902))
 
A keyboard player himself, Haydn wrote some fifty piano sonatas over a period of some thirty-five years, from 1760 to about 1795. He ceased composing in the genre fourteen years before his death unlike his fellow Vienna-based contemporaries Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert who all continued to write sonatas up to the end of their lives. Arguably the piano sonata was not always as successful a medium for him as the string quartet and the symphony. Notwithstanding, Haydn’s finest works in the sonata genre contain some remarkable music and rank with the best composed before Beethoven’s piano music took centre-stage. Biographer James Cuthbert Hadden has written, “Haydn, building on Emanuel Bach (Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach), fixed the present form, improving so largely upon the earlier, that we could pass from his sonatas directly to those of Beethoven without the intervention of Mozart’s as a connecting link. Beethoven’s sonatas were certainly more influenced by Haydn’s than by Mozart’s.”
 
The opening score on the release, the Sonata in C Major, Hob.XVI:48 was composed in 1789. This together with the Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:49 formed a pair for Breitkopf of Leipzig; issued as part of the set titled Musikalischer Pot-Pourri. Cast in two movements the C major opens with an Andante con espressione which is a set of variations alternating between major and minor. The movement consists of intensely brooding music of searching introspection. There are a few slight episodes of a brighter and more optimistic disposition. The second movement is a brilliant Rondo - Presto, confident and high-spirited.
 
In 1797 Haydn composed the melody to the anthem Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (God Save Franz the Emperor) sometimes known as the Kaiserhymne (Emperor’s Hymn). The melody was at one time the Imperial Austrian anthem and is currently the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Germany. Contained in the footnotes to this review is a short history of the old Imperial Austrian and German national anthems (see footnote). The melody was clearly loved by Haydn and he used it as the basis for the theme and set of variations of the Poco adagio movement of his Kaiserquartett (Emperor) String Quartet in C major, Op. 76/3, Hob.III:77.
 
Haydn transcribed the slow movement theme and variations from the Emperor Quartet for piano as the Variations in G major, ‘Gott erhalte’ published in 1799 by Artaria. This is compelling playing by Cooper in the G Major Variations which have a splendid sense of fragility and vulnerability.
 
The Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:49 composed in 1789/90 is the companion work to the Sonata in C Major, Hob.XVI:48. Cast in three movements the score was intended for his close friend Marianne von Genziger the wife of the physician to the Esterházy family. A noble dignity with the addition of essential vitality suffuses the opening Allegro and the performance of the Adagio e cantabile is warmed by beauty and grace. There is brisk and bright playing from Cooper in the Finale - Tempo di Minuet which has a most refreshing and airy quality.
 
Regarded by many as Haydn’s most famous single piano score the Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII:6 was possibly intended as the first movement of a sonata and later renamed as Sonata - Un piccolo Divertimento. The F minor Variations were composed in 1793 and published in Vienna in 1799. My published Verlag edition contains the inscription that the score was composed for Barbara von Ployer also bearing a dedication to Baroness Josefine von Braun. It has been suggested that the news of the death of Marianne von Genzinger in 1793 inspired the score and maybe drove Haydn to add at the last minute a heart-breaking Coda section. Haydn biographer Rosemary Hughes considers the score as, “one of his finest alternating-variation works.” (‘Haydn’, ‘The Master Musicians series, J. M. Dent, London (1950)). Cooper remarks how his chosen tuning system on the fortepiano, “…comes even more into its own when used in the F minor Variations…
 
Throughout the F minor Variations the breadth of colour in Haydn’s writing is quite remarkable. Cooper’s assured playing here imparts a dour rather funereal gloom with the second theme in F major expressing a more consoling and relaxing quality. In the substantial Coda I was struck by a certain rhapsodic anguish that ultimately disintegrates to a peaceful conclusion. It is remarkable is how Cooper pushes the fortepiano to the extremes of its dynamic limits whilst never losing control.
 
The concluding work on the disc is the Sonata in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:52. Completed in 1794 the E Flat major score is often acknowledged as his finest in the genre. Haydn’s final sonata published in 1798 by Artaria in Vienna bears a dedication to Magdalene von Kurzbeck. For its London publication in 1799 it appeared with a dedication to the pianist Therese Jansen. Cooper plays the opening Allegro with great flair and richly dramatic energy. The Adagio is charming and sensitive and one senses that the soloist is reaching deep inside the music. Bustling with life and vitality in the Finale - Presto he demonstrates adroit changes of pace and bold dynamic contrasts.
 
These performances are imperious. This notwithstanding the sound of the fortepiano will be an acquired taste for some. For those wanting to hear a selection of Haydn solo piano music on a modern grand piano I can suggest the thoughtful and intuitive performances of real distinction from Alfred Brendel on Philips 475 7185.
 
As an alternative one cannot go wrong with the super budget-priced series of the complete Haydn piano sonatas on 10 CDs from Jenő Jandó on Naxos 8.501042. Jandó’s extremely consistent performances are impressive and display a confident directness of style.
 
The recorded sound from Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer is outstanding and the booklet contains a splendid essay written by the pianist. For those that are interested in these things the total timing is actually a generous 77:52 not the stated 67:70. Haydn’s keyboard works offer numerous delights and certainly deserve to be better known.
 
These are excellent accounts from Gary Cooper performed on the fortepiano.

Michael Cookson

Footnote: Haydn’s melody known as the Kaiserhymne (Emperor’s Hymn) also known as the Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (God Save Franz the Emperor) was composed in 1796/97 with a text by Lorenz Leopold Haschka. The Kaiserhymne was conceived to celebrate the birthday of Franz II, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It was so successful that it became the Imperial Austrian anthem until the fall of the Austrian monarchy in 1918. The melody with words written by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 was appropriated as the national anthem of Germany in 1922 known as Das Deutschlandlied (The Song of Germany, also known as Das Lied der Deutschen (The Song of the Germans). From 1933-45 during the Third Reich the first verse of Das Deutschlandlied and the National Socialist Horst-Wessel-Lied were sung together as the national anthem of Germany. Not surprisingly the anthem became politically compromised owing to its Nazi associations. From 1952 West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) adopted the melody as its national anthem singing only the third verse; with East Germany (German Democratic Republic) having its own national anthem. In 1991 the third verse of Das Deutschlandlied became the national anthem of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany

 


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