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Chiaro e scuro
Track listing below review
Olivier Cavé (piano)
rec. 2015, Sendesaal Bremen.
AEON AECD1545 [77:49]

Olivier Cavé already has a couple of releases available from the Aeon label though this seems to be the first to have been reviewed on MWI. His first recording for the label is wholly Scarlatti, followed up by Clementi and J.S. Bach. By chance this arrived for review at the same time as Claire Huangci’s substantial 2 CD Scarlatti set (review), and she makes the point that, as an in-between composer, Scarlatti sits as much on the side of the Classical as the Baroque. Elaine Sisman’s booklet note for Chiaro e scuro begins with the lack of recognition given to Haydn and Domenico Scarlatti’s shared artistic sensibilities: “their protean multiplicity, rhythmic inventiveness, turns to pathos, love of two-part textures rattled by sudden full sonorities [which] put us constantly in the presence of inventio, the discovery of musical ideas.” The possibilities for Haydn to encounter Scarlatti’s sonatas are further gone into, but in the end such intriguing but speculative scholarship is secondary to the success or otherwise of embedding these two composers so closely into a single recorded programme.

Cavé’s Haydn is very nicely done indeed, the sprightly opening of the opening Allegro con brio of Hob. XVl:37 is played with electric clarity and an irrepressible sense of fun, making the contrast of the following Largo e sostenuto all the more emotionally penetrating. We are let back out into the sun for the playful Finale, which sets us up for the first Haydn/Scarlatti transition in the Sonata in G major Kk 425. There is a difference in style, and you don’t have the feeling that Cavé is imposing artificial crossovers in terms of touch and idiom, but the similarity in energy and brightness of mood between these sonatas is easily heard.

The move into Haydn’s G major Partita Hob XVI/6 is another easy transition, and without taking up the relationship or contrast between each piece in this recording it can safely be said that Haydn and Scarlatti make very effective bedfellows. The music is stylistically distinctive between the two, creating contrast and heightening one’s sensitivities to the qualities of each. This is both entertaining and an education, and with such musically satisfying performances and a very fine recording this is through and through pleasure from beginning to end.

Even when it comes to one-off programmes like this it’s always interesting to compare and contrast with other performances. I’ve been listening to Marc-André Hamelin’s fine recordings of Haydn’s sonatas on Hyperion for a while now, and it’s interesting to hear where for instance in Hob XVI/6 Cavé’s more pointillist touch creates a different kind of lift, where Hamelin’s slightly broader and more linear view has more dramatic content. This by the way is from volume 3 of his collection, CDA67882. The lovely Adagio from this sonata, or Partita as it is called on this Aeon disc, is given quiet, suggestive power by Hamelin, who manages to turn the movement into something like a gentle operatic aria – the one just before everything kicks off. Cavé is also very good indeed: superbly sustained and restrained, but without quite that sense of expectation I hear from Hamelin.

Olivier Cavé is his own man and his performances of Scarlatti and Haydn are up there with the best. His playing is of the light and playful kind, which finds entertaining breeziness where it can without losing the shade of either composer’s moments of poignancy and deeper moods. Chiaro e scuro is after all the title of this release, and it succeeds admirably at every level.

Dominy Clements

Track listing

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Sonata in D Major, Hob. XVl:37 [12:45]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in G major, Kk 425 [2:54]
Joseph HAYDN
Partita in G Major, Hob. XVl:6 [13:54]
Sonata in E major, Kk 495 [4:00]
Joseph HAYDN
Divertimento in C Major, Hob. XVl:10 [8:44]
Sonata in G major, Kk 432 [2:03]
Joseph HAYDN
Sonata in F Major, Hob. XVl:23 [13:41]
Sonata in A major, Kk 342 [2:11]
Joseph HAYDN
Sonata in D Major, Hob. XVl:24 [10:05]
Sonata in B-flat minor, Kk 128 [5:17]


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