Monday, 14 July 2008

127. Joseph Haydn - Piano Sonatas (1771-95)


Title: 11 Piano Sonatas
Performer: Alfred Brendel
Year: 1979-85
Length: Around 4 hours


These were some particularly great piano sonatas, and they were great for a number of reasons, firstly because they are not particularly well known and you have the discovery value that you won't with Beethoven's for example, secondly because they are full of humour and whimsy, and thirdly because Brendel is the ideal interpreter for them.

I have actually seen Brendel live, he was playing Mozart sonatas at the time but he is an extremely expressive interpreter, and you definitely get that here. It would be hard to choose a best sonata out of this set, although his last four sonatas (49 to 52) are definite highlights of maturity coming very close to Beethoven.

However, even his earlier sonatas are pretty great and number 20 is a particular highlight. There is a sense of fun and lightness to the whole thing that just spells Haydn to me, even the Adagios can sometimes be amusing. It isn't even a particularly virtuoso collection, but the music doesn't need show off pieces.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

After Haydn's death (1809), during the 19th century, the term "Papa Haydn" became something of a stereotype, designating to many a kindly, perhaps doddering old man whose music was very simple and thus suitable for children. The stereotype is a counterpart to the evolution of Mozart's reputation during the same period: Mozart died too young to become "Papa Mozart", but nevertheless was often regarded during this era as a kind of porcelain figure.

With the rise of Haydn's critical stock during the 20th century, scholars and critics became rather leery of the term, as a distortion of the composer's work. For instance, Jens Peter Larsen wrote (1980) in the New Grove encyclopedia:

For years the nickname 'Papa Haydn' has characterized the composer. Used by his own musicians and others as a tribute of affection and respect, the expression increasingly took on misleading connotations, and came to signify a benevolent but bewigged and old-fashioned classic. The recent revival of interest in Haydn's music has made plain that the traditional picture had become a caricature, and that it gave a false impression of richness and diversity of his development as a composer.

However, since materials of music education still tend to reflect 19th century sources, the term is well known to the musical public.

This little rhyme goes with the first bars of the Surprise Symphony:

Papa Haydn's dead and gone

but his memory lingers on.

When his heart was filled with bliss

he wrote merry tunes like this.

Brendel plays 1st movement of 49:

No comments: