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Emanuel Ax Plays Haydn

Haydn / Ax,Emanuel
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 5440182   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax
Conductor:  Emanuel Ax
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Franz Liszt Academy Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the first of a series of Haydn sonata discs by Emanuel Ax for CBS, probably not complete (see: Fanfare 12:4, p. 479). Three of these four are among the best-known sonatas, and all are suitable candidates for Ax's modern concert grand. He approaches Haydn from the Beethoven end, making his readings a touch weightier and more serious than most other pianists. How fitting, in the case of No. 60: it was written about 1794, and the young man who had been Haydn's pupil a year before published his own first sonatas a year later. The C-Minor Sonata of 1772 also benefits from Ax's serious reading; no "Sturm und Drang" exaggerations are needed. But Ax does not lose sight of other sides of Haydn's personality; his playing of the Read more F-Major Sonata is light and graceful, its Adagio pure bliss. Among other modern-piano recordings, three of these sonatas are played by András Schiff on a Denon disc (Fanfare 9:4); at first Schiff's more pointed staccatos seem livelier; but, after hearing Ax through, Schiff seems a touch fussy, almost Gouldish. One word sums up Ax's Haydn: satisfying. CBS has supported Ax with excellent reproduction; his piano comes through with bright singing highs and warm solid bass, smoothly integrated across the spectrum. How will he do with sonatas farther from Beethoven and from his concert grand? I look forward to finding out.

– James H. North, FANFARE [9/1989]
reviewing Sonatas 33, 38, 58 and 60, originally released as CBS 44918

Emanuel Ax has made the Haydn sonatas his own in recent years; certainly few "major label" pianists have bothered to explore these delightful works systematically, and Sony deserves credit for supporting him in his efforts. The results certainly make a powerful case for following where the artist leads (when, as here, the artist knows where he is going), for both this and Ax's previous Haydn discs have been excellent in all respects, and he has been very enterprising in his mixture of familiar and unfamiliar works.

The sonatas included here offer a typically broad representation of Haydn's range as a keyboard composer. The most famous of them is No. 49 in C-sharp minor, with its tragic minuet finale (here played with a powerful sense of barely muted grief). No other composer lavished so much attention on this simple dance form and discovered in it so much variety of expression. Note how appropriately Ax varies the pace of this dark piece as compared to the jaunty minuet finale of Sonata No. 34 in D.

Two sonatas in A-flat major, Nos. 31 and 35, open and close the program. No. 31 is a big work (nearly 20 minutes) and Ax plays it as such, with the bold contrasts of the broadly paced first movement and brilliant finale enfolding a poetic central Adagio. The concluding A-flat sonata brings the program to a very satisfying conclusion, its Moderato-Minuet-Presto sequence of movements providing a steady acceleration of excitement that Ax takes particular care to project effectively.

As a centerpiece, there's the big E-flat major Sonata No. 29, and here Ax avoids possible monotony between the opening Moderato and the ensuing Andante of nearly equal length. It's a beautifully paced performance, with a particularly jubilant account of the concluding Allegro di molto, one of Haydn's biggest sonata finales. The high-level recording sounds a touch bright in the loudest passages, but otherwise richly supports a program that will give listeners unalloyed pleasure.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing Sonatas 29, 31, 34, 35 and 49, originally released as Sony 89363

Haydn's popular D-Major Piano Concerto dates from about 1780, but the F-Major Concerto comes from the early Esterházy years, the G Major somewhere in between. So the early two were certainly written for harpsichord. Emanuel Ax plays a modern grand piano; he and Haydn collaborate to make all three delightful piano concertos. Ax is often thought of as a middle-of-the-road Romantic performer of the standard repertoire, but here, as in his disc of Haydn sonatas {Fanfare 13:1), he provides lucid, graceful accounts. One reaction is that this polished classical playing would be ideal for Beethoven's First Concerto. Perhaps that defines a stylistic year (1795) for these performances: just a touch late for the works at hand, but still short of the nineteenth century. Ax plays his own cadenzas in the first two concertos, and ones attributed to Haydn and to Johann Gottfried Schicht in the last. The D-Major Concerto has a history of successful piano recordings; this is among the best. The opening Vivace is fresh and vigorous, the Largo cantabile gentle and tender without being Romantic, and the Presto finale cleanly syncopated and witty. The G-Major Concerto comes to life brilliantly here; Ax makes it sound a better work than I had previously thought. Only the early F Major fails to convince; it remains more interesting on a harpsichord. The string-only accompaniments for the first two concertos are a bit dull; the addition of winds brightens the D Major considerably.

Earlier Sony 20-bit masterings have impressed me more as hype than substance, but this is apparently a 20-bit recording from start to finish. I don't know for certain that there is a difference, but this disc boasts exceptionally clean piano sound, as fine as any I have heard. The chamber orchestra sounds fine, if not noticeably better than other good recordings of similar ensembles. The recordings were made at the Italian Institute in Budapest in March 1992. I recommend this disc for Ax's clean, upright playing of some almost-top-drawer Haydn.

– Fanfare [5-6/1993] Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Keyboard no 58 in C major, H 16 no 48 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  Sommer Ctr Chapel, Concordia Coll, NY 
2. Sonata for Keyboard no 33 in C minor, H 16 no 20 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1771; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  Sommer Ctr Chapel, Concordia Coll, NY 
3. Sonata for Keyboard no 60 in C major, H 16 no 50 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: c1794-95 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  Sommer Ctr Chapel, Concordia Coll, NY 
4. Sonata for Keyboard no 38 in F major, H 16 no 23 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1988 
Venue:  Sommer Ctr Chapel, Concordia Coll, NY 
5. Sonata for Keyboard no 47 in B minor, H 16 no 32 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1776; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 10/1993 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 14 Minutes 54 Secs. 
6. Sonata for Keyboard no 53 in E minor, H 16 no 34 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1784; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 10/1993 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 13 Minutes 45 Secs. 
7. Sonata for Keyboard no 32 in G minor, H 16 no 44 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Written: 1778 
Date of Recording: 10/1993 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 12 Minutes 50 Secs. 
8. Sonata for Keyboard no 59 in E flat major, H 16 no 49 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 10/1993 
Venue:  Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 
Length: 18 Minutes 46 Secs. 
9. Concerto for Keyboard in F major, H 18 no 3 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Conductor:  Emanuel Ax
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Franz Liszt Academy Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1771; Austria 
Date of Recording: 03/1992 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest 
Length: 19 Minutes 56 Secs. 
10. Concerto for Keyboard in G major, H 18 no 4 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Conductor:  Emanuel Ax
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Franz Liszt Academy Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 03/1992 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest 
Length: 20 Minutes 21 Secs. 
11. Concerto for Keyboard in D major, H 18 no 11 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Conductor:  Emanuel Ax
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Franz Liszt Academy Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1784; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 03/1992 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest 
Length: 18 Minutes 2 Secs. 
12. Sonata for Keyboard no 31 in A flat major, H 16 no 46 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Written: 1778 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City 
Length: 17 Minutes 43 Secs. 
13. Sonata for Keyboard no 34 in D major, H 16 no 33 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1778; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City 
Length: 14 Minutes 33 Secs. 
14. Sonata for Keyboard no 29 in E flat major, H 16 no 45 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Written: 1766 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City 
Length: 19 Minutes 6 Secs. 
15. Sonata for Keyboard no 49 in C sharp minor, H 16 no 36 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1770-1775; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City 
Length: 13 Minutes 4 Secs. 
16. Sonata for Keyboard no 35 in A flat major, H 16 no 43 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Emanuel Ax (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1783; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 06/2000 
Venue:  Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City 
Length: 12 Minutes 58 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Haydn and Mozart September 26, 2013 By Jon Nicodemus (Cincinnati, OH) See All My Reviews "Haydn and Mozart are the magic duo of their time. Emanuel Ax finds in all his readings of Haydn what we would expect Mozart to have found had he been playing this music. Ax has the facility, the intelligence, and the musicianship to make marvelous music of Haydn's piano works. This recording bings deep pleasure. --Jon Nicodemus" Report Abuse
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