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Gottlieb Wallisch - Haydn: The London Sonatas -

09 July 2014
Graham Williams
5 Stars

The Viennese born pianist Gottlieb Wallisch has already made three generally well received recordings of Mozart for the Linn label and for his latest release he now turns to the late keyboard sonatas of that other great 18th-century master Josef Haydn.

When in 1790 Joseph Haydn's employer and patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy died he was succeeded by his son, the unmusical Prince Anton, who discontinued both the orchestra and the opera company. Fortuitously Haydn was invited to England in 1791 by the impresario Johann Peter Salomon to conduct his symphonies in London. The composer quickly assumed celebrity status with the English and it was during his second journey to London in the years 1794-5 that Haydn composed his last three piano sonatas. It is these with which Wallisch opens his programme on this SACD.

It is clear when listening to these incomparable masterpieces that Haydn's abundant invention and imagination was in no way restricted by the limitations of the fortepiano or early examples of the pianoforte available to him at the time of their composition. This is why they are particularly well suited to the colour and range of the modern concert grand something that is immediately apparent in Sonata No. 60 in C major, Hob. XVI/50 in which Wallisch demonstrates the wide dynamic range of his Steinway Model D instrument to excellent effect.

Each of these sonatas is a treasure house of captivating musical delights, fantasy and typical Haydnesque wit that Wallisch explores to the full in these performances. From the unusual conciseness of the striking D major Sonata, Hob. XVI/51 to the grandeur of Sonata No. 62 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/52 the pianist shows himself to be in total sympathy with the style of the music and able to convey its qualities to the listener.

Wallisch's recital also includes Sonata No. 59 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/49 - the last sonata Haydn composed before coming to England, and a searching performance of the marvellous Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII/6‘Un piccolo divertimento' that Haydn dedicated to the pianist Barbara von Ployer, who was also the dedicatee of Mozart's Piano Concertos K449 and K453.

The recording, produced and engineered by Philip Hobbs is first class. It was made in the Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, a venue noted for its excellent acoustics and the sound is crisply focused and immediate enhanced with just the right amount of ambience from the surround channels.

These persuasive performances in exemplary sound will afford much pleasure.    
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