Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonatas for Violin and Viola
, Hob. VI:1-6
Anton Steck (vn); Christian Goosses (va)
ACCENT ACC 24219 (70:54)
These six sonatas (or duos, as they are often called) tend to be ignored in the Haydn literature.
The New Grove
merely lists them, and Robbins Landon (in
Haydn: His Life and Music
) doesn’t even do that; only Geiringer (
style="font-style:italic">Haydn: A Creative Life in Music
) thinks highly of them: “The violin displays the inventive power and brilliant conception to be expected of a composition of the seventies. . .” (more likely 1769), although he goes on to complain of the “poor treatment accorded the viola part.” I find the sonatas full of Haydnesque life, the accompanying nature of the viola part harmonically satisfying and no barrier to their charm. Nor is their formal similarity: all include an Allegro (or Moderato), Adagio, and Tempo di Menuet.
Performances on the Hungaroton recordings in Brilliant Classics’
are “square and unimaginative, the violin tone harsh” (
32:4). Modern-instrument performances on a 1990 Et’cetera disc are smooth and elegant. Steck and Goosses play rich, complex period instruments, which add enormously to the works’ effect. Their fine tuning and careful yet imaginative playing enrich the music, making that elegance seem merely slick. In addition, they play 17 minutes of repeats missing from the Et’cetera disc. There’s not a weak moment here, and the 18 movements may be heard consecutively with nary a nod. Lovely!
FANFARE: James H. North
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