This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Alone among the best players of the day Brendel has been giving steady attention to Haydn, making these recordings extremely valuable. He is at once robust with Haydn and scrupulous over every marking which could carry meaning as to how statements should be characterized, phrases and paragraphs shaped and one note joined to another.
For every new record of Haydn's piano music I suppose there must be half-a-dozen of Mozart's, at least. Alone among the best players of the day Brendel has been giving steady attention to Haydn. I count these recordings—this is the fifth—among the most valuable he has given us in recent years. Like the others, the latest is intelligently planned—an hour of Haydn you might wish to listen to
without interruption. The sonatas are strongly contrasted, the Variations in F minor give variety to the recital, and the scale and greatness of this work and of the last sonata Haydn wrote, the E flat major, are thrown into relief by the more modest ambitions of the two earlier sonatas. Not that variety is likely to be in short supply on any Haydn record of the piano music. If any quality is characteristic of the sonatas it is surprise. 'Haydn as a master of surprise' is a good title for this particular collection, and there is some perceptive comment by Monika Mollering in the booklet about the surprises, if you're prepared to work hard at unravelling it.
I've been listening to the CD, which has attractive sound. It is close and physically very 'present', and once or twice in the first movement of the G major Sonata I am aware of unwelcome extra-musical counterpoints from the player. But it does convey well the exquisite precision of Brendel's articulation and the sculpted quality of his sound. You sense his contact with the instrument and something of the way he draws the music out of it. He is at once robust with Haydn and scrupulous over every marking which could carry meaning as to how statements should be characterized, phrases and paragraphs shaped and one note joined to another. But—as always with Brendel—a careful reading of the text is only the starting-point. From there he seeks and interprets and goes far beyond the unexceptionable presentation of Haydn that is all one usually gets. He reserves a special boldness for the E flat major Sonata. One could imagine Beethoven relishing this performance of it. Yet there is daring in his approach to the earlier sonatas too. The first movement of the G major, which Haydn marked innocente, is given a surprisingly searching reading, revealing the movement as a double-variation set of uncommon quality; I suspect that some of us may have grown up with it mistaking its innocence of spirit for simple-mindedness. The weight of Brendel's expressiveness here is apt and his discreet decoration of 'second times' an object lesson in how to do such things. As to Haydn's greatest set of double-variations for piano, nicely placed at the end of the recital, here again is a reading of extraordinary insight. It would not be many who would dare to inflect the basic tempo so much between the alternating minore and maggiore. Yet this is a brilliant idea. Where others in this piece can give the impression of having swallowed a metronome, Brendel's fluidity opens up new vistas, while at the same time he controls the ebb and flow of tension to build the music powerfully.
I don't care for his headlong fast-forward rush through the first movement of the D major Sonata, but this, for me, is the only provocative and less than totally positive aspect of a stimulating record.
-- Stephen Plaistow, Gramophone [12/1986]
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