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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Piano Sonatas, Volume 9
Sonata No 10 in C (Hob.XVI:1) (? c.1760) [8:38]
Sonata No 44 in F (Hob.XVI:29) (1776) [16:48]
Sonata No 41 in A (Hob.XVI:26) (1773) [11:35]
Sonata No 2 in C (Hob.XVI:7) (? c.1760) [4:35]
Sonata No 52 in G (Hob.XVI:39) (1780) [16:07]
Sonata No 53 in E minor (Hob.XVI:34) (1784) [14:30]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
rec. 8–10 July 2020, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20131 [72:15]

Sonatas 2 and 10, both in C major, are most distinctive in C minor in their Trios. In Sonata 2 from early on (tr. 11, 0:45) a descending phrase in thirds in the right hand suggests indulgent melancholy. In Sonata 10 a suddenly sullen Trio grabs your attention while a brief interlude of hope, when the right hand enjoys syncopation against the left (tr. 3, 1:17), is soon rejected.

In Sonata 41 the opening movement is like a military dandy’s display: lively, rhythmic manoeuvres, variety and wealth of ornaments superbly played by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. But going into the minor (eg. tr. 7, 0:30), shows this guy has also experienced sorrowing times, before tossing these aside with rude gestures. The Minuet and Trio are al Rovescio (upside down), i.e., the second strain is the first backwards. The Presto finale is jubilant interplay between the hands, dished up in helter-skelter semiquavers.

The opening movement of Sonata 44 is a bouncy, jolly Moderato from Bavouzet. Its opening idea suggests a military-like authoritative figure, but after a four-note fanfare is mocked in a lyrical aside, to which Bavouzet’s gruff fanfare repeat in the bass is a rebuff. The second idea (tr. 4, 0:14) is like a flighty, free lady, singing “This is where life is!” The third idea is a shimmer of arpeggios (0:37), magically realized by Bavouzet, extending the flightiness before sprouting a cavalcade of semiquaver runs (1:03). Arresting chords and pungent modulations punctuating the opening fanfare begin the development (2:42); the lady’s response is to repeat key, small units of her argument before going on a bender of quasi arpeggio sequences (3:13). Bavouzet treats us to extra ornamentation in the repeat; you wonder how he finds space for it.

The Adagio slow movement sports a first theme like a man keen to impress with baroque style decoration. The second theme (tr. 5, 0:43) finds the responding lady equally ornate but continuing (1:00) in a manner at first of conciliatory appeal, then throwaway demisemiquaver descents. In the Tempo di Menuet finale, ostentation, especially in trills, is celebrated by Bavouzet with calm assurance. However, in the Trio in F minor (tr. 6, 0:53) syncopation is prominent, like a dysfunctional couple, maintaining their own order out of sync with one another.

Sonata 52 opens with an Allegro con brio rondo, from Bavouzet friskily scampering. The first episode, in G minor (tr. 13, 0:43) is a variant of the G major rondo theme, cool and refreshing, but fades so the rondo theme can return more giggling in showers of semiquavers. The second episode, in E minor (2:06), starts suavely but becomes a rollicking parade of dotted-semiquaver-plus-demisemiquaver figures. The rondo theme returns livelier with a coda (3:43) of cadenza like showmanship.

I compare Roman Rabinovich recorded in 2016 (First Hand Records FHR 71). Timing at 4:42 to Bavouzet’s 4:07, Rabinovich’s classical politesse suits the G minor episode, while he also provides good contrast in more rugged elements in the E minor one. But Bavouzet’s suave opening of that is more delectable and I think he’s right to play the piece with more bravado.

The Adagio slow movement is an expansive yet benign arioso but, encased in elaborate filigree decoration, the overall effect is less relaxed. Bavouzet presents limpidly while moving things on, yet creates an impression of smooth nonchalance, extra ornamentation in the repeats enhancing the sense of freedom. The development (tr. 14, 3:56) is in a warier G minor, but C major soon (4:35) reasserts itself with more frills. An idyllic phrase of descending semiquavers that had heralded the end of the exposition (1:19) becomes increasingly significant in Bavouzet’s exquisite close.

Timing at 7:44, Rabinovich is only 11 seconds more expansive than Bavouzet and, with more overt expressiveness, arguably more satisfying, save for a slightly overegged approach to the sudden high tessitura of the second long phrase (0:40 in Bavouzet). Rabinovich brings more sorrowing reflection to the juxtaposition of ‘soprano’ crotchets and ‘mezzo’ running semiquavers a little later, though Bavouzet’s quiet ‘mezzo’ insistency (1:09) is equally effective. Rabinovich’s extra ornamentation in repeats is perhaps excessive, but I prefer his more forthright development.

Bavouzet makes the Prestissimo finale irrepressibly effervescent, the contortions of its leaping opening theme more noticeable when it passes for second airing to the bass (tr. 15, 0:16), but his hair-raising tempo misses something of the imitated Scarlatti brightness, albeit he finally achieves an unexpected, gloriously calm, bowing out. Rabinovich, timing at 4:31 to Bavouzet’s 4:08, gives a happier, glittering account with more evident light and shade in dynamics.

Ambiguity describes the opening movement of Sonata 53. A ruminative Presto Bavouzet, I think rightly, takes more like Allegro assai for a sober unease confirmed by the sudden f of the staccato arpeggio midway through the second phrase, after which the right hand shows a manic side with a flurry of high tessitura semiquavers before a more lyrical manner rescues the exposition. In the development the explosion comes earlier and, at the height of disquiet from its increasing tension (tr. 16, 2:46), Bavouzet adds an appropriate right hand eingang (mini-cadenza). The repeat enlarges the intensity so Bavouzet’s eingang now is a brooding left hand one, before Haydn’s optimistic codetta (5:16) restores the balance.

The second movement Adagio begins with a warm, elegant melody, ostentatiously elaborated and then demisemiquaver runs take over, yet Bavouzet in the repeat still finds scope for further ornamentation. The second part (tr. 17, 3:01) Bavouzet starts a bit crestfallen before happier demisemiquavers. Arresting arpeggiando chords take us straight into the Vivace molto finale, a marking Bavouzet takes rather politely, befitting another marking, innocentemente. A rondo finale, with a catchy theme for E minor and first episode in E major (tr. 17, 0:34), a kind of mirror image of the rondo theme. The second episode (1:57) is also in E major and midway through the second part at a pause Bavouzet adds an eingang, as in Sonata 52 varied in the repeat. A closing showstopper, played with great spirit.

Michael Greenhalgh

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