J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 12/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Unquestionably this box set of ten CDs is not for everyone. Most people who are familiar with any of Haydn's sonatas know only some of the later ones; he wrote sixty-two, after all. And the earliest ones -- the first thirty, more or less -- were written for harpsichord, or for either harpsichord or fortepiano. This means that they were published without dynamic markings, since variation in loudness is not possible on the harpsichord. As well, they tend to have some baroque trappings albeit coupled with classical harmonies. I found it instructive to listen to the earlier sonatas but often found myself thinking that once or twice would be enough. Others, I hasten to add, find much to enjoy here. And there certainly are marvelous moments in this early batch. For instance, the slow movement of Sonata No. 5 (Hob.XVI:11) is a pensive and lovely lament. (And interestingly enough, the first movement of that sonata is the same as the finale of the 4th sonata.) The first movement of Sonata No. 12 (Hob.XVI:12) is a gentle andante with lilting triplets and sounds, with its compound meter, like it comes from much later in Haydn's career. Clearly, as the early date of this sonata has been authenticated, Haydn 'had it' from early on, but he had to find his way to his final unerring brilliance. Sonata No. 15 (Hob.XVI:13) has a finale that sounds for all the world like an operatic finale. One almost hears ghostly voices singing 'Corriam tutti!'. The two-movement Sonata No. 20 (Hob.XVI:18), although written for harpsichord, has implied dynamic contrasts heard only when played on the piano, as here. Unexpectedly, both movements are in sonata allegro form.
But it is when we get to the later sonatas that we hear the Papa Haydn we all know and love. And what a feast there is for lovers of Haydn's mature style. There are a few sonatas that are familiar to most music-lovers,e.g., No. 50 (Hob.XVI:37) or No. 59 (Hob.XVI:49), but all of these late ones are worth investigating. No two are remotely like any of the others; no cookie-cutter here. My own weakness in Haydn, aside from his use of unexpected humor, is in his slow movements. I recall in my youth as a piano student I was irritated by both the complexity and the s l o w n e s s of some of these movements. Now, in the fullness of years, I have come to love some of these movements immoderately. For instance, there is the Adagio of the just-mentioned No. 59. Its serenity is heart-balm.
What of the performances here? Well, Jenö Jandó is one of the Naxos label's dogsbody pianists and some might assume he is simply a talented hack. But that is simply not the case. He is a thoughtful and thoroughly musical player. I've never heard anything of his that was less than good. Here the playing is graceful, clear, unfussy yet expressive. He may not have the pizzazz that Marc-André Hamelin had in his recent two-CD set of Haydn sonatas Haydn: Piano Sonatas -- and there were those who didn't like it, although I thought it was superb -- but Jandó makes a convincing case for all of the sonatas and I can certainly recommend the set, particularly at budget price, roughly half-price compared to the single CDs in the series that are still available. For lagniappe included in the set are a number of single movements by Haydn, including the magnificent 1799 F Minor Variations (Hob.XVII:6), played soulfully by Jandó.
Exploring the Haydn Piano Sonatas with Jeno Jando
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 10/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death (1732 - 1809), I decided to get better acquainted with his piano sonatas. With its usual enterprise and flair, the budget-priced Naxos label has been releasing complete cycles of Haydn's symphonies, quartets, oratorios, concertos, and masses in this anniversary year together with the cycle of piano sonatas performed by their much-recorded artist, Jeno Jando. Jando recorded the sonatas during the 1990s on ten separate CDs, but they were released as a box set only in 2009. The individual CDs also remain available, but they are numbered differently than in the box which arranges the sonatas in their generally accepted chronological order. I was attracted to this set in part because it allowed me to focus my attention on each individual CD and to share my thoughts on each CD and sonata with interested readers here on Amazon.
Although not frequently performed in recitals, Haydn's sonatas have been well-served on recordings. There are worthy recordings of individual works and complete sets ranging from period performances on harpsichords and fortepianos to extraordinary virtuoso performances on modern instruments. Jano's Haydn has received almost universal acclaim. He plays on a modern concert grand and makes full use of the sonorities and capability of the instrument. He plays in a self-effacing style which shows that he has thought through these pieces in terms of feeling, organization, dynamics and phrasing. Jando does not sentimentalize these works, or try to give the impression of performance on an 18th Century instrument, but neither does he try to overwhelm the listener with sheer brilliance. He offers instead beautifully realized contemporary readings of Haydn. Jano sometimes hums while he plays, but I did not find this distracting. Regardless of its budget price, this set is an excellent way to get to know Haydn's keyboard sonatas.
Haydn composed for the keyboard throughout his long career. For listeners with the patience and interest, it is rewarding to work through this set to follow Haydn's developing mastery of the sonata form. The earliest sonatas date from the early 1760s, or possibly even earlier, while the final works date from Haydn's second visit to London in the mid-1790s. Probably over one-half of the sonatas were written for harpsichord. Many of them are called "divertimentos" or "partitas" and resemble a Baroque suite more than the classical sonata. The final five or six sonatas are large-scale masterpieces and use to the full the resources of what was, at the time, the modern piano. Between the first works and the last lies much delightful music.
The earliest ten sonatas, included on the first CD, are short and were probably written as teaching pieces. The authenticity of some of these works has been questioned. The next several CDs include larger suite-like works for harpsichord in which Haydn does a great deal of experimenting with the number of movements and with their order and tone. Many of these works are highly impressive. For me, they culminate in the A flat major sonata, Hob 46 and the D major sonata Hob 19, which conclude the fourth CD.
The sonata in C minor, Hob. 20, which appears on disk 5 is a turning-point in that it appears to be the first sonata Haydn wrote expressly for the piano. It is a tragic, angular masterpiece on the level of the minor-key symphonies Haydn wrote during the early 1770s. The three following disks (6-8) include three sets of six sonatas that Haydn published during the mid 1770's to 1780 but which he probably wrote earlier. These works are highly varied and include some deeply expressive music together with works in a galant style.
The final two CDs include Haydn's sonatas from the late 1780s to the mid 1790s. Many of these works are grand and stunning, including the two movement sonata in C major, Hob 48 and the f minor variations, (Sonata Un piccolo divertimento) from CD 9. CD 10 includes the lovely E flat major sonata written for Maria Anna von Genzinger, a woman for whom Haydn cared deeply, together with the three final sonatas in C major, Hob. 50. D major, Hob 51, and E flat major, Hob. 52, written in London for a famous pianist of the day, Therese Jansen.
Haydn's music has been aptly characterized as being composed "fur Kenner und Liebhaber" - for connoisseurs and amateurs. This description captures Haydn's writings for the keyboard. Many of these sonatas, ranging from the earliest to some late works, were written as teaching pieces with amateurs in mind. Other works, including some of the early pieces, and many of the works before the final set for Jansen were written for highly proficient amateurs, playable but with moments of difficulty and brilliance. (The general level of proficiency for those who studied the keyboard in Haydn's day seems to me higher than it is today.) Other works were composed for the virtuoso performer. There is a similar range of intensity of feeling and musical complexity shown in these pieces. But in many of these works of whatever level, Haydn took the materials he was working with to write music of broad appeal. Taken as a whole, the sonatas show the slow, sure movement of a composer from rather slight, conventional works to music of great depth, feeling and originality.
Haydn's sonatas will amply reward attention by listeners who love the piano and the classical style. I was pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about them by listening to this set and gathering my thoughts here. For those who may wish to read my more detailed reviews of the ten individual volumes in this series, I am attaching links below.
Robin Friedman Haydn: Piano Sonatas Vol. 5 Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1: Nos. 59-62 Haydn Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 Haydn: Piano Sonatas Vol.8 Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7 Haydn: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-10 Haydn, Piano Sonatas Vol. 9 Haydn: Piano Sonatas Vol. 6, Nos. 20 and 30-32 Haydn: Piano Sonatas Nos. 53-56 and 58; Un Piccolo Divertimento Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 "
Great set of beautiful music
Douglas Broehl | Delafield, Wis. | 09/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love Haydn's music, and especially his piano sonatas. This is a great set of all his sonatas. The recorded sound is pristine, the piano is clear and intimate; no echoing, and the clarity is maintained throughout the whole set. The piano playing is excellent as well. Jeno Jando does a masterful job of bringing a wonderful life and vitality to these works; he is lively when he needs to be, and quiet and reflective when it is appropriate. I have heard many, but not all, of these pieces played by other pianists and Jando out-does them all. He really is an excellent pianist. Perfect timing, great volume control, and he is able to capture the spirit of each sonata through his playing. The music is incredible, and I am becoming a firm believer that Haydn is one of the most underrated classical composers. His sonatas are rich and filled with much more mood and emotion than I was expecting. In fact, there are some pieces that are, to me, equal to Beethoven's sonatas. Most of the earlier pieces were written for harpsichord, yet Haydn's sonatas translate well when played on a piano. The later pieces offer the listener a more interesting variation of sound and mood, and there are some works that are quite beautiful and moving (sonata # 59 in particular). Haydn is the type of composer that the more one listens to his music, the more fascinating and richer it becomes, and this is certainly true of this set. I am very glad I purchased this set; I love listening to it, and I am going to treasure it forever."
Wonderful playing with a weak point
Paulo R. Weirich | 03/25/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This box set of Haydn Piano Sonatas is almost perfect. The recording, the piano sound and the interpretation are really excelent. No doubt or question about this. But there's a weak point. And to me it is an important one. Unfortunatelly, Mr. Jeno Jandó has the boring habit (as did Glenn Gould, at least sometimes) of singing while playing. And here it happens almost the entire time. Very softly, but perfectly audible if you listen with attention and in a reasonably good equipment. So, if you don't mind hearing a "ghost singer" behind the music, you should have this box set. And you would be a hundred per cent satisfied."