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Haydn: Piano Works, Vol. 1 & 2

Haydn: Piano Works, Vol. 1 & 2

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"Top-drawer Haydn." -- BBC Music Magazine

Acclaimed British pianist Peter Donohoe returns to Signum Records with vols. 1 and 2 of a new series of Haydn piano works – including the Variations on Gott erhalte den Kaiser, Hob. i, 430. Since his success as joint winner of the 1982 International Tchaikovsky Competition, Peter Donohoe has gained international renown as one of the foremost pianists of our time, for his musicianship, stylistic versatility and commanding technique. "I cannot imagine a living pianist capable of improving upon Donohoe’s outstanding artistry," writes Robert Matthew-Walker of Musical Opinion.


Donohoe is having so much fun with these pieces that he keeps you engaged from start to finish, much like Michael Korstick’s recent set of Scarlatti sonatas (to which I gave a rave review). In fact, Donohoe’s sense of rhythm is even a bit “springier,” if you know what I mean, than Korstick’s; there is almost always a hint or a touch of syncopation in his playing, certainly not in a jazzy way but in a way that makes every note and phrase bounce. And interestingly, even when Donohoe suddenly introduces a moment of rubato or a ludtpausen into the music, one never feels that he is slowing things down because even these moments have an underlying bounce to them, thus it all holds together. This proves especially important in the slow movements, such as the first-movement “Andante con espressione” of the Sonata in C, Hob.XVI:48, where Donohoe also uses interesting volume shifts in the accented notes to hold one’s interest—and make the movement less soporific. And in the ensuing “Rondo: Presto,” Donohoe almost makes the music laugh as well as sing! There’s clearly a touch of Chico Marx in his approach, and believe it or not, it works.

One will also note that Haydn, like his colleague Mozart, had a talent for playing some serious moments against the lighter ones: chiaroscuro, they called it. And there are so many passages in these sonatas where Haydn suddenly indulges in harmonic shifts, either from major to minor or vice-versa, as well as those into neighboring keys or using chromatic passages and/or modal scales, that he continually holds your interest. You simply cannot predict exactly how he is going to develop a movement; he always has an element or two of surprise up his sleeve.

I would also like to praise the recorded sound on this album. Unlike Donohoe’s Bartók concerti, which had a somewhat dry sound, these Haydn sonatas have just enough natural reverb around the instrument to give it a nice ring without becoming too much like an echo chamber.

-- The Art Music Lounge

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Signum Classics
    • UPC/Barcode: 635212072622
    • Item Number: SIGCD726