Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Volume 7 – A major, Hob 5; G major, Hob 6; in E major, Hob 31; F major, Hob 47; C major, Hob 48

Reviewed on Wed 24 Oct, 2018

The first movement of Hob 5 – treated as an exercise in keyboard dexterity – virtually sets the tone for what is to follow; despite embellished repeats they are a run through of the notes with only rare moments of inflection and expressivity.

A puzzle to set the ball rolling. Why is Hob 47 – the first movement not by Haydn, the two subsequent movements the same as the first two movements of the genuine E minor Hob 47bis (alias Hob deest) but transposed to F minor and F major also by an unknown hand – included here? Probably because Christa Landon added it to her 1960s edition together with many other sonatas not in Hoboken’s catalogue. However, Georg Feder omitted it in his 1970s listing, and Miklόs Dolinszky published only the first movement in the 1990s. Shouldn’t this sonata therefore have been ignored considering that scholar and booklet-note writer Marc Vignal dubs it “a fake” and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s performance of the authenticated sonata is on CHAN 10668? Probably not, because Ulrich Leisinger’s edition of 2009 agrees with Landon’s acceptance of Hob 47, although he has abandoned her chronology as “impossible to realise” and returned to Hoboken. All very intriguing; but so is Bavouzet’s approach to the earliest works – Hob 5, Hob 6 and Hob 31 – which have no dynamic markings, intimating they may have been written for harpsichord; and Bavouzet mostly does not extend himself to suggest otherwise. The first movement of Hob 5 – treated as an exercise in keyboard dexterity – virtually sets the tone for what is to follow; despite embellished repeats they are a run through of the notes with only rare moments of inflection and expressivity. But despair not. Reach Hob 48, and here in a kaleidoscopic switch is Bavouzet, no longer a tiresomely literal exponent but a musician of substance dredging the depths of a magnificent late sonata and offering it in all its sublime introspection and sweeping grandeur. Formidable interpretations, from Alfred Brendel, Gary Cooper (fortepiano), Glenn Gould, Clare-Marie Le Guay, John McCabe, András Schiff and Andreas Staier (fortepiano), grace the catalogue. Bavouzet stands alongside.
–Nalen Anthoni