Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas - Volume 3
Sonata No. 59 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:49 (1789-90) [22:34]
Sonata No. 54 in G major, Hob.XVI:40 (1784) [12:48]
Sonata No. 47 in B minor, Hob.XVI:32 (before 1776) [17:51]
Sonata No. 40 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:25 (1773) [9:23]
Geoffrey Lancaster (fortepianos: copy of Stein 1788, *copy of Walter c. 1795)
rec. Llewellyn Hall, Australian National College of Arts and Sciences School of Music, Canberra, 23-24 June 2010.
TALL POPPIES TP216 [66:22]
This series comes with extensive notes by Geoffrey Lancaster
and the innovative feature of prefacing every sonata with an
improvised prelude. This emulates the practice adopted in Haydn’s
time. It’s a settling device, getting you used to key
and piano before Haydn enters. In any event these preludes -
all playing for less than a minute and most less than 30 seconds
- are also separately tracked so you can skip them if you wish.
The Preludes related to each sonata are as follows:-
Sonata No. 59: Prelude in E flat major by Muzio Clementi [0:15]
Sonata No. 54: Prelude in G major composed just prior to the
recording session, containing elements of a prelude by Joseph
Sonata No. 47: Prelude in B minor by Muzio Clementi [0:21]*
Sonata No. 40: Prelude in E flat major composed just prior to
the recording session, containing elements of a prelude by Johann
Nepomuk Hummel [0:33]
Whether you listen to the preceding Clementi or not, if Sonata
59 doesn’t give you the Haydn bug, nothing will. The opening
movement (tr. 2) is extraordinarily packed and contrasted. Lancaster
dramatizes it to the full. A vigorous opening phrase with heavy
punctuation in the left hand is immediately answered by a smoother,
more placatory one. From 0:20 onwards all is expansive, looking
outwards and upwards. A second thematic group (0:43) starts
more florid. It later delights in extreme melodic contrasts
as treble and bass take the spotlight in turn. Lancaster is
very good at the spikier development of the opening theme (4:10)
but for me he presses forward too insistently in the coda (7:25).
What comes across, however, is a wilful and passionate piece.
The use of fortepiano and close recording enhances a raw and
uncompromising quality. The slow movement (tr. 3) is marked
‘Adagio e cantabile’.
Lancaster’s brand of lyricism is unusual: hard-edged,
hard-fought and hard-won, making for a different kind of expressiveness.
It’s not beautiful but it holds your attention. A continually
wayward individuality is stressed. There’s an evident
determination to be awkward in turn of phrase, range and leap
of melody. The intricate ornamentation is shown to be part of
the intensity of the expression. The central section in B minor
(3:48) is bitterly resolute with crashing bass octaves and an
increasingly overwrought treble. Then follows a wonderfully
simple, crystalline descent and a tender return to the opening
melody. This is aided by the Stein piano’s mellow tone.
Lancaster makes the increasingly labyrinthine ornamentation
intrinsic to the passion. Occasional spleen notwithstanding,
the search for resolution in the coda (8:00) is also movingly
The finale (tr. 4) begins with a smoothly flowing Minuet. Then
the rather more characterized Trio (1:14) follows in which a
laid-back proposal is countered by an emphatic retort. Lancaster’s
interpretation of the Minuet is an intensely rhythmic and glittering
affair in which beauty of shape is subordinated to the display.
He’s particularly happy with the more pungent aspects
of the Trio. The Minuet, on its return, moves from E flat major
to a pensive E flat minor. This makes the calm of the close,
again in the major, a welcome resolution. Lancaster colours
the apex of the final appearance of the melody at 4:18 to invoke
a minor key shadow. It’s a chilling effect though not
what Haydn wrote. Lancaster likes to challenge you.
Sonata 54 begins marked Allegretto e innocente. Lancaster
gets across both the feel of a contented dance and a pulse which
suggests an underlying tension. A straightforward tune proves
to be full of intricate detail. This is further enhanced by
Lancaster’s consistent practice of increasing elaboration
of ornamentation in the repeated passages. The change from G
major to a section in G minor (tr. 6 2:08) is marked by an infusion
of tragic tension. There’s pointing to match though arguably
this becomes overly emphatic. The return to G major brings more
welcome playful decoration in semiquavers. This is played with
affection and mastery. The closing section enjoys both grandeur
and cheeky simplicity. Lancaster fully exploits the greater
density and brilliance of the Walter piano. The Presto finale
comes fast and frisky and full rein it accorded to its dynamic
contrasts and cadential and other leaps. I enjoyed his imaginative
addition of a cascading glissando at the midpoint of the repeat
of the second section (tr. 7 0:59). Also a pleasure are the
airier treatment of the episode in E minor (1:17) and the surprise
of the gentle holding back of the final note.
Sonata 47 is one of the great Haydn piano sonatas. A resolutely
stern opening is quickly followed by more expansive, sighing
reflection. The second theme (tr. 9 0:44) starts with an unexpected
thunderous chord and the exposition ends with one. Lancaster’s
presentation is fluent and insistent. The development finds
a Schubertian vein of melancholy, especially from 3:59. This
mood lingers in Lancaster’s sensitive presentation. Subtle
variations of tempo are used quite freely yet always expressively
in terms of the overall mood.
I compared the 2003-4 recording by Christine Schornsheim (Capriccio
49 404) who plays a 1793 fortepiano by Louis Dulcken. Timed
at 5:34 against Lancaster’s 8:20, Schornsheim’s
Allegro moderato is barely that. The outcome is a movement
of considerable energy. That said, there’s little of the
reflection and pathos that Lancaster reveals through adopting
a tempo closer to Andante. To the second movement Menuet
Lancaster brings, with breadth and poise, a vivid impression
of its dance origin. It’s glitteringly pointed and precisely
phrased. It’s also self-consciously crafted. You can hear
this in the intricacy of the ornamentation Lancaster adds in
the repeats. The Trio is richer, more dusky in tone and brooding.
Schornsheim’s Menuet is dainty and neat but, again with
a faster tempo (3:08 against Lancaster’s 4:27). In comparison
she is short on charm at this point though her Trio is vigorous
and strong. The Presto finale in Lancaster’s hands is
notable for its powerfully crashing chromatic descents (tr.
11 0:14). The manic spinning ostinato from 0:33 dominates the
rest of the exposition and returns to complete the sonata. This
is breathtaking playing: at his best Lancaster fully absorbs
you in his intensity. Schornsheim is fiery but not as fiercely
punchy and percussive.
Sonata 40 is relatively short and concentrated, made more so
by the lack of a second half repeat: from 3:47 to the end of
tr. 13 should be repeated. Lancaster gives the opening theme
a firm martial strut. The second theme (0:28) might have been
more yielding: its demisemiquavers are too clipped. The play
between the two hands from 1:13 is attractive and the lyrical
features benefit from the ornamentation of the exposition repeat.
Lancaster has the second movement Tempo di Menuet flowing
easily and restfully. This serves to clarify Haydn’s use
of canon throughout. In the first section the right hand leads
and the left imitates; in the second (tr. 14 0:23) this procedure
is reversed. I’m puzzled why the first section isn’t
repeated though the second is: perhaps an editing slip?