Gottlieb Wallisch - Haydn: The London Sonatas - International Record Review
26 August 2014International Record Review
That Haydn's second London sojourn in 1794-95 brought his
mastery of the classical symphony to its ultimate perfection and grandeur hardly
needs mention here. But no less astounding were the last of his 62 keyboard sonatas.
Haydn's 'London' Sonatas comprise the final three such works (Sonata No. 59 in
E flat, Hob. XVI/49, also heard here, was written five years earlier in Esterhaza)
listed by Anthony von Hoboken in his authoritative catalogue, and the innovation and
originality of these still often neglected works cannot be underestimated.
So for anyone who for common-sense reasons of thrift
would prefer to have the 'London' Sonatas on a single disc, or perhaps for those
collectors still to dip a toe into the world of Haydn's keyboard music, this outstanding
new release from Linn will have immediate appeal.
Latest in an impressive line-up of pianists to set down
Haydn's late sonatas is the Viennese virtuoso Gottlieb Wallisch, whose translucent
pianism, compelling intellectual disposition and unforced empathy with classical
semantics might lead some to tip him as a natural successor to Alfred Brendel,
at least in the music of the Viennese masters. In every respect, Wallisch's
newly minted, muscular and insightful accounts have a tremendous amount in their
favour, making this one of only a handful of new releases to have afforded
incontestable listening pleasure so far in 2014.
During his first stay in London in 1791, Haydn met the
piano maker John Broadwood, who gave him composing space in his shop. This allowed
Haydn to evaluate fully the tonal potentialities of Broadwood' s new instruments,
whose greater sustaining power and enlarged compass undoubtedly influenced the final
sonatas. Interestingly, all three were written for female acquaintances, fine
pianists in their own right, which fact undoubtedly ascribed personal meaning to
Haydn's task, as evidenced by the consolatory style and melodic refinement
of the slow movements.
Wallisch gives hugely effective readings of the serene Adagios
of Sonatas Nos. 60 and 62, and the sheen and allure of his playing brings
moments of hushed expressive intimacy. Seldom does he plumb the depths with Brendel's
seriousness of intent, but the degree of light and shade in these accounts is
always appealing, and I greatly enjoyed the capering final Presto of
Sonata No. 62, and the brief but explosive finale of its D major predecessor.
Wallisch is tremendously adept in the
great E flat major Sonata No. 62, with playing that's wonderfully responsive
and attuned to the mannerisms and decorum of the piece, and is at his best in the
F minor Andante with Variations, Hob. XVII/6, its nostalgic atmosphere
probably a response to the death in 1793 of another of Haydn's female confidantes,
Marianne von Genzinger...I shall be returning to these splendid Haydn offerings from
Wallisch, who has contributed his own admirable booklet notes, often and with pleasure,
for these outstanding recordings are in every way self-recommending.
Related LinksGottlieb WallischHaydn: The London Sonatas