Haydn: Piano Sonatas – Hoboken 32 in B minor; 40 in G major; 49 in E flat major; 50 in C major

Reviewed on Thu 21 Jun, 2018

Individuality is always probed, be it the first movement of No 40 marked Allegretto e innocente and played with moving simplicity, or the underlying turbulence of No 32.

Did Haydn make a mistake in the first movement of No 49? Both halves are written to be repeated, yet the second half takes in the coda which then is played twice. Hélène Couvert (ZZT) addresses the problem by returning to the beginning after bar 190 (where the double bar ought to have been) and continuing to the end. Alternatively, the second repeat is omitted altogether. Either way the coda is heard as it ought to be – once. Paul Lewis, like many others, follows the printed text. More disconcerting is his unexpectedly deadpan, business-like thrust. But from the Adagio cantabile onwards the musician we know in, say, Schubert’s Sonata D894 and the slow movement of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Op 106 steps out. Individuality is always probed, be it the first movement of No 40 marked Allegretto e innocente and played with moving simplicity, or the underlying turbulence of No 32 where Lewis also uses his initiative to give the coda of the last movement a single showing only. Intensity of involvement invariably reaches out to the subjective; perhaps just that bit more in No 50, the emotions in the Adagio expressed through varied tonal colours, a finale of humorous spurts, pauses, hesitations and a first movement of histrionic contrasts sharpened by two episodes marked ‘pp open pedal’ with a wavy line between staves. Lewis responds by combining the shifting soft pedal with the damper, for two bewitching breaks within the stormy passions of an interpretation that shunts even Glenn Gould into the shadows.
–Nalen Anthoni