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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Sonata in A Flat Major H. Xvi:46 [18.35]
Sonata in E Minor H.xvi:34 [14.19]
Sonata in E Flat Major H.xvi:49 [18.42]
Sonata in C Minor H.xvi:20 [19.05]
Sonata in C Major H.xvi:48 [11.37]
Sonata in G Major H.xvi:39 [14.52]
Sonata in D Major H.xvi:33 [15.46]
Sonata in G Minor H.xvi:44 [13.36]
Variations in E Flat Major H.xvii:3 [17.11]
Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK, 31 March, 24-26 September 2012
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6242 [70:41 + 73:02]

This is the first time I have encountered the playing of Vladimir Feltsman. I was quite amazed to see that he has mustered a considerable roster of recordings on Nimbus, with a discography encompassing music from baroque to twentieth-century, embracing composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov. The list goes on.
 
Born in Moscow in 1952, he made his debut with the Moscow Philharmonic at the age of eleven. Piano studies were with Jacob Flier at the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory of Music. He also studied conducting. In 1987, he emigrated to the United States, where he now lives as an American citizen. A large portion of his time is taken up with teaching.
 
Feltsman has here chosen a selection of the mature Haydn sonatas. He composed his piano sonatas between 1750 and 1795. The influences for these compositions were George Chrisoph Wagenseil and later C.P.E. Bach. Together with the symphonies and the string quartets, the piano sonatas were a crucial factor in the development of the sonata-form in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
 
Listening to these two CDs, I could not but marvel at Haydn’s craftsmanship and inventive mind. Feltsman really gets under the skin of these works and delivers idiomatic and well-characterised renditions. Precision, stylish phrasing and responsive control of dynamics are the hallmarks, and the performances do not disappoint. The wit, humour and energy in the Rondo of the C major sonata is emphasized and thrown off by Feltsman with tremendous élan. On the reverse of the coin, the underlying melancholy and pathos of the opening movement of the C minor has echoes of Sturm und Drang. The 12 Variations in E flat are a delight. It is interesting to note, as Feltsman points out in his notes, that Mozart was so taken by this theme that he modified it and used it as the main theme of his E flat major piano sonata K282.
 
The piano sound in these recordings is warm and resonant. Clarity and definition are first rate. Documentation by Feltsman himself is illuminating. I would now like to explore Feltsman’s other albums on the back of these.
 
Stephen Greenbank