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Haydn sonatas v10 CHAN20191
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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 10
Sonata No.45 in A (Hob.XVI:30) (1774) [13:30]
Sonata No.28 in D (Hob.XIV:5) (c.1767-70) [12:22]
Sonata No.4 in G (Hob.XVI:G1) (?1760) [7:55]
Sonata No.60 in C (Hob.XVI:50) (c.1794/5) [16:02]
Sonata No.3 in F (Hob.XVI:9) (1766 (?1760)) [5:48]
Arietta con 12 Variazioni in E flat (Hob.XVII:3) (c.1770-74) [15:36]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
rec. 15-17 June 2021, Potton Hall, Dunwich, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20191 [71:31]

There’s one masterpiece on this CD: Sonata 60. From Jean-Efflam Bavouzet comes an almost furtively soft beginning to the first theme, a pondering pause, then loud arpeggiated affirmation, jubilation unleashed as ideas crowd in on one another and repeat gleefully. The second theme (tr. 15, 0:47), energetic airborne semiquaver runs in the right hand, takes the first with it in the left. You enjoy Bavouzet’s niftiness as both hands then exchange a variety of semiquaver figures (0:59) and then the two themes (1:08). The exposition codetta sports a fanfare in thirds, then nostalgic harmonic progression visiting D minor (1:30) before comfortingly touching on G major (1:35) which signals the release of exuberant virtuosity and a comedic parade of appoggiaturas (1:48). In the repeat Bavouzet adds ornamentation, piling on the fun. In the development (4:05) Bavouzet’s pace and presentation of ideas impress, as does Haydn’s innovation of the first theme pp for the sustaining pedal in octaves in the bass register, very eerie (4:50), before going into a frantic chase of quavers followed by quaver rests in the left hand, motifs jumbled and repeated until three ff chords’ affirmation fanfare the recapitulation, soft as originally, while Bavouzet adds an appropriate eingang (mini cadenza) at 6:14. A second sustaining pedal passage (6:47), delicate and ethereal in the soprano register, features the first and hints of the second theme. The coda (7:40) omits the exposition’s appoggiaturas, but from Bavouzet come headily sustained higher flying right-hand semiquaver runs and arpeggiated two closing chords.

I compare Paul Lewis recorded in 2017 (Harmonia Mundi HMM 902371, review with apologies for my wrong numbering there as Sonata 50). Equivalently timing at 7:08 against Bavouzet’s 7:40, Lewis brings more dazzling, febrile brilliance to the movement’s progression and it’s easier to appreciate its span and structure. Yet, for repeated listening, Bavouzet is easier to live with and finds space to reveal more of Haydn’s humour. Lewis’s exposition codetta fanfares seem hectoring in comparison with Bavouzet’s and his development is stormier. While both players make the sustaining pedal significant, Lewis finds more density in its first appearance and charm in its second. His account is better balanced in that, unlike Bavouzet, he repeats the second part of the movement as well as exposition: his full total timing is 10:37.

In the contemplative adoration of the Adagio slow movement all is sensitivity, elaboration and nuance. A typical, but effective, Haydn trick is moving, at the end of the second phrase, from the first’s comfortable F major closing on C to a jarring C sharp (tr. 16, 0:30). The first theme has a falling emphasis, the second (0:41) a rising one. Its upper soprano compass gives it a suddenly luminous, from Bavouzet even pearly, nature, proceeding to a codetta of descents in the right hand, from Bavouzet of iridescent finesse (1:28). Classically the more troubled development (1:56) patiently works around to the recapitulation and increased ornamentation which Bavouzet emphasises yet here is Haydn’s written out, including a hammered repetition of that early dissonant C sharp. The second theme reappears in C minor (3:21) and flirts with F minor, while its coloratura high Fs stand out from Bavouzet at 4:08, 4:27, then with beautiful softness and a pause at 4:41. Then enjoy his supremely delicate appoggiaturas to the final two notes.

Lewis takes a more active, muscular approach to the musical line; but his main interest and success lies in achieving a beguiling flow and tone colour within which those dissonant C sharps are tempered. He also brings more contrast with a far-away, musing quality to the second theme and darker development. But Bavouzet’s more crystalline tone, sense of stillness and brighter intensity of contemplation are equally attractive.

The Allegro molto scherzo finale Bavouzet fashions as cheekily throwaway with early racy appoggiaturas and more emphasis on gusto of projection than the playful halts of hesitation returning from the first movement. Yet he makes clear the pointed modulations and creamy arpeggios that spice the progress.

Lewis brings more in-your-face energy, also more pointing of the hesitations which I feel becomes too mannered, albeit part of his more marked varying of the pulse. I prefer his quieter ending than the suggested crescendo to forte of the Wiener urtext Bavouzet follows.

Second prize on this CD goes to Sonata 45, composed 20 years earlier, Haydn’s only piano sonata played without a break. Its first movement is all merry dexterity: an aristocrat chatterbox lady of frilly semiquavers and demisemiquavers countered by a trimmer military style gent (tr. 1, 0:18), whose tempering has always been in the bass part. It is, nevertheless, an amiable partnership as they echo one another and come together. But an interrupted cadence leads us straight to an Adagio (tr. 2), a soulful Bach-like arioso to staccato bass accompaniment, itself left in mid-air as we move to a Tempo di Menuet cantabile theme (tr. 3) Bavouzet depicts as utter contentment. Variation 1 (tr. 4) allows more semiquavers into the melody, Variation 2 (tr. 5), the theme in baritone register. In Variation 3 (tr. 6) both hands exchange flurries of semiquavers, while in Variation 4 (tr. 7) both have quaver runs, so Bavouzet brings the feel of reverie on a balmy summer afternoon. Variation 5 (tr. 8) features arpeggios in triplets and sextuplets by Bavouzet fruitily exchanged in both hands. Variation 6 (tr.9) has the theme, beginning in mezzo register, twice reaching top D.

As in previous volumes, Bavouzet mixes sonatas from various periods, backtracking 14 years earlier for Sonatas 3 and 4. So you experience the learning curve through which Haydn achieved his mature works. In Sonata 3, despite its relative simplicity, Bavouzet brings elegance and chipper, assertive bounce to the opening Allegro and you’ll relish his extra ornamentation in the repeat of the Scherzo’s final strain. In Sonata 4 his neatness and propriety in the opening movement is delightfully offset by the impropriety of repeats’ extra ornamentation, while the gentle beauty of his Minuet captivates counterpoising the martial bluster of its second phrase.

Michael Greenhalgh

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