The inspiration for this recording was derived from that all-too-rare occurrence: a perfect marriage of instrument and composer’s music. The language of Haydn’s later keyboard writing, containing such infinitesimal subtlety of expression, inflection, dynamic range, colour, and every mood under the sun, from tempest to sunny wit, seems to me perfectly matched by the gem of a piano used for this recording, dating from Vienna c.1785. In truth, I have never encountered an instrument capable of such breadth of touch and response from this period: to my mind, Haydn’s last, and greatest, keyboard works, richly deserve being heard on such a piano, in order that the fullest range of expression and depth of imagination contained in these remarkable pieces may be brought alive. Commissioned by Breitkopf to write a group of piano sonatas in 1789, Haydn ended up composing only two: the Sonatas in C and Eb, Hob. XVI:48/49. Taken together, these new works represent an astounding advance in the composer’s language on the keyboard. The opening Andante con espressione from the Sonata in C major is a set of variations, alternating major-minor tonality, and contains a level of mercurial fantasy and full use of all registers of the instrument, hitherto unmatched. The highly detailed dynamic, phrasing, and articulation markings represent Haydn’s clearest intentions in performance, punctuated by many periods of silence. Haydn is the first composer to use silence in such a magical way! There are only two movements in this sonata: the ensuing Presto finale is the first keyboard movement of its type to draw inspiration from the sheer ebullience and brilliant scoring of finales from his later symphonies – together with an unmistakable, and increasing indebtedness, to Muzio Clementi, whose playing and piano sonatas were both greatly admired by the composer. The paired Sonata in Eb seems to me to be the most balanced, perfect composition. The outer movements date from 1788/89, but the work was only completed with the composition of the centre-piece: an extended, highly poignant, slow movement, written in 1790 during a period in which the composer felt troubled and lonely. He later admitted this movement was ‘full of significance’ to his close friend, and dedicatee of this sonata, Marianne von Genziger. Lack of space prevents a fuller discourse on the great merits of this work, but attention should be drawn to the vigour and inspiration of the first movement: that Haydn can sustain our interest with such suspense through the development section, using very little motivic material, and continue to do so in the unexpected final coda, is nothing short of remarkable. There is even a brief suggestion of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata – as well as his Fifth Symphony! The simple, yet sublime, final Tempo di Minuet balances out the powerful opening movements beautifully, with delicate decoration, intense charm and a central minore section that is highly suggestive of Schubert!…Download booklet
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