HAYDN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 36-41
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Piano Sonatas Vol. 4
Sonata No.36 in C Major, Hob. XVI: 21
Sonata No.37 in E Major, Hob. XVI: 22
Sonata No.38 in F Major, Hob. XVI: 23
Sonata No.39 in D Major, Hob. XVI: 24
Sonata No.40 in E Flat Major, Hob. XVI: 25
Sonata No.41 in A Major, Hob. XVI: 26
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza in the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
The classical keyboard sonata developed during the eighteenth century, the changes in its form and content taking place during Haydn's life-time. This formal development took place during a period when keyboard instruments themselves were changing, with the harpsichord and clavichord gradually replaced by the new hammer-action fortepiano. There are some fourteen early harpsichord sonatas attributed to Haydn. Of his 47 later keyboard sonatas, dating from about 1765, the first thirty were designed for harpsichord and the next nine for harpsichord or piano. The remaining eight sonatas include seven specifically intended for piano and one for piano or harpsichord. The principal musical difference between music for harpsichord and that for the piano lies in the possibilities for gradual dynamic change with the newer instrument, indications of which appear in Haydn's later sonatas.
The sonatas Hob. XVI: 21 - 26, consecutively if variously numbered by successive editors, form a set of six written in 1773 and published the following year as sei sonate da Clavi-Cembalo and dedicated to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, sua altezza serenissima del sacro Romano imperio principe Nicolo Esterhazy di Galantha etc., etc. Issued in Vienna by the publisher Kalzbeck (Kurzböck), the sonatas represent Haydn's first publication in the city. The first of the set has a monothematic first movement, its second subject closely related to the first, but expanded in the closing section of the exposition and duly developed in the central section. The F major Adagio frames a very short central section before its return, and the sonata ends with a lively movement in which the opening descending figures are important.
The second sonata, in E major, starts in more measured style, with a subsidiary theme that at first increases in tension as it rises. Material from this and from the first theme appears in the central development, before the recapitulation. The E minor Andante is dominated by triplet figuration and leads to a final Tempo di Menuet in which the first theme, in E major, returns in slightly varied form to frame an E minor episode that itself returns with a reversal of rôles for left and right hand.
The F major Sonata, Hob. XVI: 23, is among the more familiar, with its chances for the display of a modicum of brilliance in the figuration of the second subject of the first movement and in the central development. The F minor Adagio provides an embellished and operatic melody against a triplet accompaniment. The last movement is dominated by its principal theme, which appears in various keys before its final triumph, capped by a brief cadence.
There is a sprightly first subject in the opening of the Sonata in D major, with subsidiary thematic material in the left hand, dramatically accompanied by the divided notes of the triad in the right. The D minor Adagio allows the right hand an embellished melody, ending with a descending dominant arpeggio that leads at once to the final D major Presto, a movement characterized by the asymmetrical rhythm of the principal theme.
The slower speed of the first movement of the Sonata in E flat major allows a fuller range of melodic ornamentation that is continued in the development and recapitulation. The second of the two movements opens in canon, sustained almost to the end of the first section. The second section reverses the order of imitation, with right hand imitating left until the final bars.
The last sonata of the set dedicated to Prince Nikolaus, the Sonata in A major, starts with a movement marked Allegro moderato and allowing considerable rhythmic variety. The triplet rhythms of the coda to the exposition assume some importance in the central development. The A major second movement is a Minuet which is to be repeated, as is its Trio, in reverse. The final Presto starts with a rapid descending scale and is a mere eighteen bars in length, although each of its two sections is repeated. The opening theme is used here to frame a central section of ten bars that is derived from it.
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.