Saturday, July 26, 2014

Haydn's London Sonatas played by Gottlieb Wallisch

Joseph Haydn: The London Sonatas
Gottleib Wallisch, piano

Sonata No. 60 in C major (Hob. XVI/50)
Sonata No. 61 in D major (Hob. XVI/51)
Sonata No. 62 in E-flat major (Hob. XVI/52)
Variations in F minor (Hob. XVII/6)
Sonata No. 59 in E-flat major (Hob. XVI/49)

Linn CKD 464            (Hybrid SACD)

This beautifully recorded and presented disc offers us Haydn’s last four piano sonatas, together with the Variations in F minor. The Sonata No. 59 was the last sonata Haydn composed during his 24 years as Kapellmeister in Esterháza. The last three sonatas were all composed during Haydn’s 2nd visit to London (1794-5).

The extraordinary success Haydn enjoyed during his lifetime, coupled with his prodigious output, are about as far as one can imagine from the Romantic cliché of the tortured artist starving in a garret. But in many of his late works, those on this disc included, Haydn’s vision seems more attuned to the nineteenth century than the eighteenth.

The final sonata (No. 62) is large in scope and ambitious in conception, while Wallisch’s program notes describe the first movement of the D major sonata as reaching perhaps as far as Schubert. The E-flat sonata No. 59 has an affecting and effective slow movement which Haydn himself characterized as “full of meaning and emotion” in a letter to the original dedicatee Marianne von Genzinger – a description equally appropriate to the Adagio of the final E-flat sonata (No. 62).

Formally the 2 movement D major sonata (No. 61) is unusual and its second movement is rhythmically very innovative. At the same time these pieces show Haydn’s inventive and playful sides – the short finale to the C major sonata (No. 60) is a good example.

Gottleib Wallisch, who has previously recorded three Mozart discs for Linn, plays with great clarity and articulation. As one might expect, the sound quality is outstanding. This SACD is a very welcome addition to Linn’s catalog and is warmly recommended.