This is a marvelous issue, well worth the listener's attention! It is part of one of those massive projects that Naxos seems to turn out with regularity – and quality. The label, of course, also regularly produces single CDs and DVDs of high quality. If I could pause for a moment to offer a word about Naxos, a label I admit I strongly admire. I'm not sure how Naxos manages to produce so much in such varied repertory and with such consistent skill, but they do it. They find talented artists that their competition seems to overlook, and then go on to produce recordings of high quality. Naxos has quite simply revolutionized things: this label not only traverses the standard repertory, often with multiple recordings of certain popular works, but it gives the listener a chance to hear the neglected corners of the repertory as well as new works, and at about half the price of the competition. With this issue, the complete piano sonatas of Haydn, we get to hear both the neglected and the familiar. Actually, because Haydn wrote little that is in the standard repertory of the piano, this is mostly unfamiliar territory. Whatever. It is worth your attention, not least because of the consummate artistry of Jenő Jandó (pronounced, I believe, Yenu Yando).
This 10-CD set is part of an even greater set issued by Naxos that also includes the complete symphonies, concertos and quartets by Haydn. I suppose I blundered in not ordering the whole package. Oh well! In any event, this set of the piano sonatas features the always-dependable Jandó. In his Brahms piano concertos he is solid and dynamic, but perhaps not quite on a par with Richter, Serkin and others, and in his Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies he is fully convincing, even if he is not as compelling as Michelle Campanella and a few others. Here, he is completely in his element. Jandó concedes nothing to anyone else. To me, he is, collectively, perhaps the most compelling interpreter of Haydn on the keyboard. I can think of Rudolph Buchbinder and John McCabe as viable alternatives, but I believe Jandó would be my first choice.
Try #60, in C Major, where Jandó deftly captures the indomitable spirit in the outer movements, with the effervescence of the first movement brimming with delight and the finale irresistible in its joy. In the earlier works, Jandó is equally alert to Haydn's mostly light approach in these works. #11 comes across as a mixture of the joyous and dark: the first movement is fairly light, while the central Largo is weighted down with more serious issues, and the finale exudes a sort of tentative return to the sense of joy heard earlier.
Jandó seems to find the character of each sonata in this set, bringing out its joys, its sadness, its ecstasies, its triumphs. The sound is excellent throughout, and Naxos provides copious notes not only on the sonatas, but on the symphonies, quartets and concertos. A must for Haydn fans, and perhaps for those with an interest in the Classical era. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 2009, Robert Cummings