HAYDN Piano Sonatas Vol 5
With the appearance of the fifth volume of his Haydn keyboard sonata survey, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has now covered 22 sonatas (plus the F minor Variations), which by my reckoning means he’s about a third of the way through the entire cycle. It’s not unfair to say that when he completes it it’s likely to be a modern benchmark in this music. He’s already been hailed as a worthy successor to Alfred Brendel (Stephen Plaistow on Vol 3 – 12/11): high praise indeed, and well-earned as he journeys through these endlessly fascinating works. While perhaps often hidden from view to a greater extent than Haydn’s symphonies or quartets, they are nevertheless a never-quite-private diary of some of his most brilliant harmonic, rhythmic and metric jeux d’esprit.
Bavouzet continues to demonstrate his deep engagement with the sonatas through his ever-questing insistence on viewing the score merely as a working document, altering (as well as ornamenting) repeats, omitting codas and codettas on the first pass, and taking considered and personal decisions on tempo, dynamics, phrasing and so on. His thorough (and thoroughly absorbing) booklet-notes spell all this out and recount his first read-through of the Minuet of the A major Sonata, No 12. Mesmerised by the chromaticism of the Trio’s minor-key passage, he played it over and over, ever more slowly, eventually arriving at a tempo unsustainable within the context of the movement. He includes that experiment as an envoi to the disc, bringing to mind a parallel, perhaps, with the Nachtmusik at the centre of Symphony No 4 but introducing a remarkable, almost impressionistic haze to its undulating dissonances and, in so doing, reminding us again how much more there is to this music than we hear in those straight-backed, schoolmarmish performances we so often suffer from other quarters.