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Johann Adolf HASSE (1699-1783)
[Sonata] Del Sig. Sassone [4:29]
Allegro [4:34]
Fuga per organo del Sig. Gio. Adolfo Hasse detto il Sassone [1:29]
Sonata per cembalo del Sig. Gio: Hasse Sassone [8:28]
A favourite Concerto by Sig. Hasse set for the Harpsichord [12:39]
Sei sonate per il cembalo del Sig. Gian. Adolfo Hasse detto il Sassone
Sonata No. IV [13:43]
Sonata No. V [7:52]
Andrea Bacchetti (piano)
rec. 2014, Fazioli Concert Hall, Sacile
RCA RED SEAL 88883 725202 [61:23]

The name Johann Adolf Hasse is by no means unknown these days, though his keyboard works have yet to become what you might call core repertoire. The Accent label has a fairly recent release (review) with Luca Guglielmo which was warmly welcomed by Johan van Veen, but search online and you are more likely to find sheet music than recordings of sonatas by Hasse. Bacchetti has beaten unusual paths with his work on the sonatas of Cherubini and Galuppi (review) and more particularly with those of Marcello (review) and Scarlatti and Soler (review). For these he didn’t settle for known repertoire but delved into libraries and archives to find new works. The same is true for these pieces by Hasse, and all references and sources for these Italian manuscripts are given in the booklet. These are all première recordings other than the two last pieces from the Sei sonate. Even here we are told that these are first recordings on a modern piano. The titles reproduced above appear as such since Hasse also referred to himself as “the Saxon” or “il Sassone”, a detail cleared up at the start of the booklet essay by Raffaele Mellace. It's a reference that derives from Hasse’s German origins rather than from his employment at the Saxon Court in Dresden.

Having a disc full of premières can make a nice change for a reviewer. While I very much enjoy getting stuck into a pile of comparisons it is refreshing just to be able to report on pioneering content and innate quality. Andrea Bacchetti’s accustomed home for recordings, the Fazioli Concert Hall is a touch on the dry side, though this balance suits the intimacy and simplicity of Hasse’s music where a grand cavernous space would not. Bacchetti’s style for these pieces follows his approach with the other recordings mentioned. He resists giving the music romantic rubati, adds no extra pianistic octaves and refuses to lard the notes with elaborate ornamentation, though there is flexibility in the shaping of phrases and a few witty inflections. Disarming directness is the key here, with the energy seeming to emerge from the notes rather than the player. The programming is usefully varied, with the upward motion of the Fuga per organo an extra lift between already good-humoured sonatas in major keys. The slow movements are jewels of almost naïve beauty, such as the Largo from the Sonata per cembalo, and the Andante from A favourite Concerto which is drawn out to 8:37 but still manages to sound elegant and natural.

As ever there are more ways to skin this particular kind of cat, and an argument can be made for a little more sprightliness in Bacchetti’s performances. He brings this music to life in an atmosphere of pearlescent beauty, but as Luca Guglielmo’s Accent recording on the harpsichord shows, there is a potential for fireworks as well as for reflective charm. Not everything is slow here by any means, and the Allegro assai of the Sonata No. IV has plenty of drive. Refinement and poise are however the watchwords here, and if you are intrigued to hear life breathed into newly unearthed works by a less well-known composer who was amongst the most popular in his day then this is a treasure worth discovering.

Dominy Clements