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CD Review

Franz Joseph Haydn

Keyboard Works Played on Historic Fortepianos

  • Sonata in D Major, Hob.XVI:37
  • Sonata in G Major, Hob.XVI:27
  • Sonata in C Major, Hob.XVI:35
  • Sonata in F Major, Hob.XVI:23
  • Partita in E Flat Major, Hob.XVI:Es3
  • Divertimento in A Flat Major, Hob.XVI:46
Richard Lester, fortepiano
Nimbus NI5847 74m DDD
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A disc of Haydn piano sonatas is always welcome although this particular repertoire is very well served on disc. The six works on this issue are the four Sonatas Hob XVI 23, 27, 35 and 37, the Parthia Hob. XVI: Es 3 and the Divertimento Hob XVI 46. All these pieces date from Haydn's Esterhazy period which lasted almost 30 years.

Still, what makes this CD so interesting are the instruments employed by Richard Lester to perform these delightful compositions. The "Galant" period was a brief one, but it ushered in much musical experimentation on many fronts. A Major part of this change was the move away from the relatively inexpressive sound of the harpsichord to that of the fortepiano, which in a very short time attained the upper hand over its predecessor.

On this recording, the first four works are performed on a fortepiano manufactured by Johann Schantz thought to have been built in 1795 and which is now housed in the Holburne Museum in Bath. The remaining two are performed on a wonderful unnamed instrument which is now part of the unique private collection of Michael Turner. Thought to be Northern Italian, this piano was a wreck when first discovered but Michael Cole's painstaking restoration brought this circa 1790's instrument back to working order.

Lester plays with committed vigour, and although both pianos are not totally reliable in their functionality, the experience is not without its rewards. This is really hugely interesting and enjoyable with some excellently researched annotations thrown in for good measure.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech