HAYDN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 17, 19 and 28 / Arietta con 12 Variazioni (Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.553826)
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Though he became the world's most famous composer of his time, Franz Joseph Haydn could well be described as a late starter. Born in1732, his father was in his spare time, the local church organist, and his mother sang in the church choir. Franz was, however, taught by a relative, before being sent to Vienna as a choirboy. While there he was taught the violin and clavier, and the basics of harmony. He had sufficient early promise to have composed a mass at the age of 13, and by then he was himself a private teacher. But how he found sufficient money to live during the next 14 years is still unclear, though at the age of 27 he had a secure income as a musician to Count Morzin, and at that time his career as a composer began in earnest. Sadly, Morzin quickly squandered a fortune and disbanded his orchestra, a fact that was to prove fortunate for Haydn.
He had to find new employment, and that came from Prince Nikolaus Esterázy in 1761, and Haydn was to remain with the family for the next 30 years. His task was to provide the Prince with whatever music he should require, and to act as the deputy conductor of the orchestra. In the service of the Esterházy house at that time was 12 musicians, but the orchestra was to grow to22 or 24 musicians, and was a fine group of players. The size of those orchestras was largely to shape his output. Over the initial period of 14 years he was to compose over 50 symphonies, together with concertos, sacred music, five operas and numerous instrumental works.
And yet his 'golden' period was still to come, when in 1776 he was appointed Kapellmeister to the house of Esterházy. His period as an opera composer flourished, but as they became more 'serious' the court began to lose interest. He rarely moved from the area, though in 1791 he was tempted to visit England, and was paid to bring with him an opera, six symphonies and 20 other works, He was, in fact, to visit again the year later, and the 12 symphonies he wrote for these two occasions have become his best known.
The later years spent in Vienna, where he died in 1809 of 'old age' hastened by Napoleon's siege of the city. A sample of his output lists 106 symphonies, 27 operas (many now lost), 14 masses, cantatas, 38 piano trios, 77 string quartets, and numerous works for solo instruments.
Throughout most of his life Haydn composed keyboard sonatas, the earliest, probably dating from 1755 for harpsichord, with the last of the series, for the newly established pianoforte, coming from around 1795. The sonatas here are all early examples, the fragment now known as the 28th sonata no more than an arrangement of movements from an early Divertimento, though there is still doubt as to whether this is music of Haydn. The 17th is equally open to doubt as to its origins, that meticulous catalogue of Haydn from Hoboken ignoring it. Whatever its origin, it is still a score of considerable charm. Though given quite a late number, modern research places the 19th sonata around 1765, the restrained and gentle opening adagio setting the scene for a work of tender and restrained melody.
Though Haydn is purported to have written more for the keyboard, much of it is of dubious origin, and likewise Haydn was not averse to arranging the music of his lesser-known contemporaries, which is probably the origin of the short Adagio in F major. Equally the Allegretto would appear to be an adaptation of a flute-clock piece, probably written by another. The remainder of the items are shavings from the master's bench, until we reach the final Fantasia, a short and vivacious presto dating from 1789. Finally, to make clear that the work included here, the Arietta con 12 Variazioni, became better known as 20 Variations in A, the first version dating from 1788.
Jano Jandó is probably the most recorded pianist of our time, his catalogue of works embracing music from the Baroque era to the great music of the present century. He came to prominence almost 25 years ago when winning first prize in the Hungarian Piano Competition. He has since toured extensively as a concerto soloist, working in particular with the major Hungarian orchestras. His recitals have taken him as far afield as Australia and the United States. But above all, Jandó is a complete musician, equally happy accompanying other artists.
He has received critical acclaim for the complete recording of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas and Mozart's Piano Concertos on the Naxos label, and he is also part of the team recording the complete piano works of Liszt now appearing on Naxos. Of his Haydn sonata series, Penguin Guide to Compact Discs states that \he shows himself a complete master of this repertoire", while Gramophone added, "Jandó is confirming his reputation as a fluent Haydn interpreter".