The Consort

This is a second CD containing a personal selection by Joanna Leach of Haydn’s works, with good programme notes that guide the listener through two decades of Haydn’s compositions for the pianoforte. The five sonatas offered on this CD will please those who already know the performances of Joanna Leach on the Athene label. This disc contains, Hob.XVI.23,34,36,37 and 51, finishing with the Capriccio in G major, Hob.XVII/1; she wisely eschews the earlier harpsichord sonatas.

The highly expressive sonata no. 20 (1771) with its mannered dynamic markings, is perhaps the first to point to Haydn’s preference for the fortepiano, although most of the works composed during the 1770s were probably written for harpsichord or for performance on either instrument. Haydn composed for the fortepiano from the early 1780s, when the Viennese action was at the peak of its popularity, but he was particularly fond of the English piano; he visited London in 1791-2 and again in 1794-5 with great enjoyment and success, and returned to Austria with a Longman & Broderip instrument. The piano chosen by Joanna Leach is her own Stodart of 1823, a fine instrument that she has used for a number of other recordings, but for her former selection of Haydn’s music she also, more appropriately, used pianos made in Haydn’s lifetime, by Broadwood, Astor and Longman & Broderip.

Cramer’s Magazin der Musik of 1785 describes Haydn’s sonatas as ‘more difficult to perform than one initially believes’, going on to point out that ‘they demand the utmost precision and much delicacy in performance’; in this recording, they receive it. The earliest sonata on this disc is the well-known F major sonata, Hob.XVI.23, written in 1773. In the second movement, Joanna exhibits her skill at producing a singing, ornamented melody with a perfectly balanced accompaniment. The first sonata is the equally well-known, Italianate D major sonata, Hob.XVI/37 (1777-9) in which both outer movements are played with joie de vivre.

The sonata in D major, Hob.XVI.51 (1794) is in two movements, as are about eight other sonatas by Haydn, and it displays the maturity and drama, if less of the virtuosity, that we find in the other, better-known, late English sonatas. The delightful Capriccio that ends the programme was written in 1765, and is based on a folk-song, Acht Sauschneider müssen seyn . The translation of this advice on the castration of a wild boar is to be found in the programme notes and, needless to say, Haydn created a successful purse from a sow’s ear (or boar’s bullock!). I imagine the composer of The Creation considered that ‘the Lord God made them all’ and, as Bach so often did before him, he signed off ‘ Fine laus Deo’ , at the end of the piece.

In 1773, the year of the F major sonata, Charles Burney wrote of Haydn, ‘There are painted on his countenance all the genius, goodness, propriety, benevolence and rectitude which constantly characterise his writings’. I believe that Joanna Leach has displayed all these qualities in her interpretations.

—Penelope Cave