Haydn Complete Piano Sonatas

Author: 
Stephen Plaistow
Haydn brendel

HAYDN Complete Piano Sonatas – Brendel

  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 47
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 50
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 33
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 53
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 54
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 56
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 58
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 59
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 62
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 60
  • Sonata for Keyboard No. 61
  • Fantasia (Capriccio)
  • Adagio
  • Sonata (un piccolo divertimento: Variations)

Last December, when writing about the fourth of these recordings, I suggested they were to be counted among the best Alfred Brendel has given us in the last five years. Listening to all four on CD has been a treat. The presentation of the collection is good too, if your eyesight is up to the demands a CD booklet imposes, and Monika Mollering's essay ( ''Images of Haydn'') and notes on the individual sonatas and pieces are a stimulus to enhanced enjoyment of the remarkable qualities of the music. It takes a great player to do justice to its variety, its richness of expression, its wit and its sophistication of form and structure, as Mollering says. Brendel's steady illumination of Haydn is a delight. He is at once a scrupulous and a robust interpreter, setting out from a careful reading of the text to seek the most vivid projection of Haydn's ideas—and I admire especially the way he allows boldness, even daring, to play a part in the search. The playing is alive with a feeling of spontaneity and the capricious side of Haydn is served as generously as the rest of him. ''The perceptiveness and musicality of his playing may well be a revelation even to those who know that Haydn's keyboard sonatas, still shamefully neglected, are every bit as good as Mozart's'', was a comment of RG's about the third disc (11/83). On the second (8/85), RF thought Brendel revealed the E minor as ''one of Haydn's very greatest sonatas''. And about the last sonata, the E flat, on the most recent issue (12/86), I said I could imagine Beethoven relishing this performance of it. In sum, marvellous music, its marvels made brilliantly manifest.
And the recording? Well, variable and not without its faults. In a Gramophone interview in January (page 985) Louis Lortie was saying that Brendel's records rarely give us a full representation of him because producers lose his special type of projection through miking him too close. I know what he means. Here, however, in music which wasn't conceived for large spaces, I find the close proximity of the sound—as it is on three discs of the four—generally acceptable. It's best, I think, on disc No. 2 and least good on the third; there it struck me as dry, altogether too clinical in aspect for the opening of the two-movement Sonata in C, and in general uncomfortably close throughout. You are indeed very close to the pianist as well as the music. I am not myself greatly bothered by quiet singalong and 'occasional extraneous noises from artist', as a recording engineer might note, but the phenomenon will be most unwelcome to some. On the more recent issues the toning of the piano is idiosyncratic too: no doubt Brendel wanted it this way? I note finally that the oldest recording is analogue, with a quite different quality of sound to the rest—more distantly balanced. less analytical, softer edged. The LP, as I remember it, was satisfactory but the CD worries me (in the C minor Sonata particularly) by a percussive quality which is insistent as a sort of note-against-note counterpoint to the true sound—the mechanical action of the piano, I suspect, picked up by one close microphone and allowed to figure too prominently in the final mix.'

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