Franz Joseph HAYDN
(1732 - 1809) Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano Hob. XVa - XV 31, 32
Sonata in B flat (H XVa, 1) [13: 29]
Sonata in D (H XVa, 2) [10:54]
Sonata in C (H XVa, 3) [14:37]
Sonata in E flat minor (H XV, 31) [12:20]
Sonata in G (H XV, 32) [12:13]
Giuseppe F. Modugno (fortepiano); Alberto Bologni (violin)
rec. 12-13 January 2009, Palazzo Monsignani-Sassatelli, Imola, Italy
CONCERTO CD 2048 [63:16]
The sonatas for keyboard and violin by Mozart and Beethoven belong
to the standard repertoire for this scoring. But where is Haydn?
He inspired both Mozart and Beethoven with his piano trios and
string quartets. Why didn't he contribute to the genre?
Well, he did. Two of his trios for keyboard, violin and cello
were originally written without a part for the cello. It is therefore
legitimate to perform the Sonatas in E flat minor and in G major
with only keyboard and violin as on this disc. That is not all.
In the programme notes to his recording of all Haydn's piano trios
(Brilliant Classics) the Dutch fortepiano specialist Bart van
Oort stated that virtually all piano trios can be performed without
the participation of a cello. In a live performance the cello
is needed to support the relatively weak bass of the fortepiano
and add some colour to the ensemble. But for the realisation of
the musical material the cello is not really needed.
This offers an interesting perspective for players like Giuseppe
Fausto Modugno and Alberto Bologni. They could have added some
of the piano trios to the Sonatas H XV, 31 and 32. Instead they
have chosen three sonatas whose authenticity seems not to be established,
even though the artists are convinced they were written by Haydn.
In a way this choice is to be applauded. Compositions of doubtful
authenticity are seldom played and recorded. That is also the
case with the three sonatas catalogued as H XVa. As their musical
quality is far less doubtful than their authenticity one may be
thankful that they are available on disc now.
What all these sonatas have in common is that the keyboard takes
the lead, and that the violin is largely reduced to doubling one
of the lines of the keyboard. This is mostly the right hand, but
sometimes the violin plays with the bass line of the keyboard
part. Only now and then does it follow its own path. There is
nothing special about this: in sonatas of this kind in Haydn's
time this was the rule rather than the exception.
The artists give technically good performances and play with passion
and zest. There is no lack of drama where it is required. That
should be reason enough to recommend this disc. But I have two
serious reservations. Firstly, I think the choice of the fortepiano
was a mistake. Giuseppe Modugno plays an instrument made by Johann
Schantz in 1815. This is far too modern for this repertoire. Considering
the development of the fortepiano in that time the instrument
is hardly more 'authentic' in Haydn than a modern concert grand.
In addition, the Sonatas in E flat minor and in G major were written
for the English pianist Therese Jansen, who will have used an
instrument with English rather than Viennese action. Secondly,
this is chamber music and needs the intimacy of the salon; thatís
a quality sorely missing here. It seems this recording was made
in a large space. This results in a unnaturally big sound and
far too much reverberation. The recording level is also quite
high, so one would be well advised to turn down the volume control,
in particular when listening through headphones.
I nevertheless commend this disc to your attention, mainly because
of the repertoire. It is wise to listen to a couple of tracks
before purchase. That way you can decide for yourself whether
the choice of the fortepiano and the quality of the recording
bother you as much as they did me.
† Johan van Veen
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