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Haydn: Piano Sonatas Vol 1 / Marc-Andre Hamelin


Release Date: 04/10/2007 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67554   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

2 Discs for the price of 1


In every piece on these two well-filled discs you'll find countless examples of impressive virtuosity allied to a keen imagination and the one critical quality by which Haydn often lives or dies: a genuine sense of humor.

It's worth remembering that "early" Haydn almost never means "immature" Haydn. This is certainly true of the early piano sonatas, of which another great Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, had this to say: "They are so beautiful and in every case so delightfully innovative. One never gets the feeling that any two are cut from the same cookie stamp." In proving the truth of this
Read more statement, Marc-André Hamelin has produced one of the finest Haydn sonata recordings ever made, an excellent candidate for anyone's "disc of the year" short list. The 10 sonatas included in this attractively priced set (two discs for the cost of one) span Haydn's entire career, from the 1760s to the 1790s, and every one of them in Hamelin's hands is a gem.

Hamelin's fearsome reputation as a monster technician has overshadowed one of his most outstanding qualities as a musician: his feeling for structure. It is his ability to subordinate technique to architecture that makes his recording of Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano so remarkable, and the same virtues are evident throughout these performances. Unerring pacing, phrasing that always points inevitably forward, and a superb sense of timing bring out the music's entire emotional range, from the madcap humor of the "Bugs Bunny" finale of Sonata No. 50 to the exquisite pathos of Sonata No. 46's Adagio. But let me point out some more specific examples.

In the great E-flat sonata's first movement, the second-subject march often gets italicized, separated from its surroundings by pauses or other mannerisms. The result may be effective, but it also interrupts the music's flow. Hamelin preserves the movement's continuity by bringing in the march without hesitation, but makes the moment special through touch and articulation. He gets the best of both worlds, not incidentally demonstrating just how a superior technique can (and should) be placed in the service of theoretically "easy" music. Or consider Hamelin's gorgeous cantabile in the Adagio of Sonata No. 24--the wonderfully controlled left-hand accompaniment against the elaborately ornamental principal melody--followed by the perfectly timed eruption of the riotously syncopated finale.

I could go on, but there's no need. In every piece on these two well-filled discs you'll find countless examples of impressive virtuosity allied to a keen imagination and the one critical quality by which Haydn often lives or dies: a genuine sense of humor. I would dearly love to hear Hamelin romp through such singleton works as the hilarious Fantasia in C major; but then, his powerful feeling for dynamic contrast serves him just as well in the starkly grim Sonata in B minor (No. 32), and doubtless would result in a particularly harrowing account of the F minor Variations. In sum, Hamelin gives us the total Haydn package, and Hyperion has recorded him in sonics as vivid as the interpretations. Listen, and be amazed. You'll come away wanting more.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Keyboard no 23 in B major, H 16 no 2c [fragment] by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1765-1770; Austria 
2.
Sonata for Keyboard no 24 in B flat major, H 16 no 2d [fragment] by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1765-1770; Austria 
3.
Sonata for Keyboard no 32 in G minor, H 16 no 44 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Written: 1778 
4.
Sonata for Keyboard no 37 in E major, H 16 no 22 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
5.
Sonata for Keyboard no 40 in E flat major, H 16 no 25 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: ?1773; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
6.
Sonata for Keyboard no 41 in A major, H 16 no 26 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
7.
Sonata for Keyboard no 43 in E flat major, H 16 no 28 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1776; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
8.
Sonata for Keyboard no 46 in E major, H 16 no 31 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1776; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
9.
Sonata for Keyboard no 50 in D major, H 16 no 37 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1780; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
10.
Sonata for Keyboard no 51 in E flat major, H 16 no 38 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1770-1775; Eszterhazá, Hungary 

Featured Sound Samples

Keyboard Sonata no 50: I. Allegro
Keyboard Sonata no 23: II. Adagio
Keyboard Sonata no 32: III. Finale: Presto

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The notes are all there, but where's the rest?  December 16, 2011 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "I consider myself an enthusiast of Marc-André Hamelin's playing, but not an idolater. Hamlin is obviously a curious musician, playing boatloads of repertoire few bother to touch: Rzewski, Alkan, Szymanowski, and Godowsky - and playing it very well. Indeed, in many ways I consider Hamelin to be the true successor to Godowsky, as evidenced by his witty and complex transcriptions and original compositions. His Liszt, too, is on a very high level. Yet, I've heard performances of his that have left me indifferent, such as his Chopin, Schumann, and now, his Haydn.

Given the wide range of reviews of this album, from raves to snorts, I decided to check out Hamelin's Haydn playing via my local library rather than Amazon. I can only say, after listening to both discs, that I'm glad I didn't purchase this album.

In piano playing, there is a difference between mechanics and technique, although too many people don't differentiate between the two. Mechanics is the ability to play the notes at the required tempo, with a reasonable degree of accuracy and finesse. Anybody who can play balanced scales, even arpeggios, clean octaves, and the like has mechanical aptitude - and in this area Hamelin exceeds just about everybody in the business. Technique, on the other hand, is the ability to project musical thought via the chosen instrument, whether it be piano, violin, voice, or even the conductor's baton. When it comes to the contents of this album, I can only state that either Hamelin's technique has failed him, or he had no thoughts about this music other than fast tempos, straight-jacketed rhythms, and tonal colors that are all shades of white.

For what is missing from this album are two components essential to performances of Haydn's music: wit and charm - even the minor key pieces have these elements. The little inflections of tempo, slight hesitations and accelerations, dynamic dips and swells, are totally missing here - replaced by the typewriting and sewing machine approach. Maybe Hamelin was bored with this music. Whatever the case, this album left me annoyed and with a headache.

Hyperion's sound is not up to the usual standards for that label. It sounds like the piano was recorded up close and a bath of reverb was added later.

I don't own any complete versions of Haydn's piano sonatas on CD (although I have the scores for many). But for selected Sonatas, I recommend Ax, Schiff, and Brendel. Horowitz has made several recordings of Sonata No. 52 in E-flat (his 1932 recording was the first ever of that piece), and various other sonatas. Rudolf Serkin made a fine recording of Sonata No. 50 in C major, (not easy to find, but worth seeking out). Glenn Gould, also, has made some quirky but enjoyable recordings as well. "
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