HAYDN Piano Sonatas - Einav Yarden
What an enterprising programme from the Israeli pianist Einav Yarden. She eschews the obvious, choosing six of Haydn’s middle-period sonatas which offer a microcosm of his endlessly varied world and she responds to each with great characterfulness. That is evident from the first sonata here, the F major (No 29), whose first movement satirically juxtaposes the most highly contrasted ideas: Yarden allows the humour to speak for itself, whereas Marc-André Hamelin tends rather to underline the jokes. Her way with the minuet finale, with its dolorous syncopated trio, is also spot-on.
She delights in the physicality of the Allegro of the D major Sonata (No 24), with its repeated-note figuration that simultaneously looks back to Scarlatti and forwards to Beethoven; its operatic D minor slow movement has a beautiful sense of line and she switches effortlessly back to freneticism as the Presto breaks in.
Every sonata seems to spring a surprise, not just musically but compositionally too. So we have as the second movement of the E flat major (No 25) a two-part canon which manages never to sound contrived; this follows a far-reaching Moderato which moves from mock-pomposity to gleefully upbeat writing. If Hamelin again is inclined to overdo the contrasts a little, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is the most subtle of mischief-makers. In the A major (No 26) Haydn borrows the palindromic minuet from his Symphony No 47, and then follows this with a brilliant blink-and-you-miss-it finale; here, Yarden is fleet and airy, though her accentuation certainly doesn’t lack bite.
The best-known sonata here is the B minor (No 32). Perhaps the highlight of Yarden’s reading is the Minuet’s Trio, captivatingly played; in the driving finale she balances the dramatic and the filigree to a nicety though is perhaps a little timid when compared with the fast and furious Leif Ove Andsnes or Alfred Brendel, who, at a slightly steadier approach, imbues the music with a despairing obsessiveness that is quite unforgettable.
Yarden clearly has much to say in this repertoire and she’s beautifully recorded too.