Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Delicate but spicy Haydn

October 30, 2014:

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has often been praised for his light touch, which is a must for Haydn, especially when using a Steinway rather than a fortepiano. But to drain too much drama and dynamism from the deceptively simple Haydn piano concertos is to miss their essential nature. Haydn was an accomplished and innovative dramatist, as we learn from the slow acceptance of his operatic repertoire on disc, if not in North American opera houses. Like Mozart’s piano concertos, the Haydn works sound operatic, and the D major 11th concerto especially has the light and dark of the stage, with a dramatic arc that includes pratfalls and soulful episodes, and ends with a triumphant comedic resolution.

Bavouzet walks this difficult path with apparent ease, and he is ably supported by the Manchester Camerata. Conductor Gabor Takacs-Nagy highlights the spicy Hungarian paprika that Haydn includes in so many passages, and he and Bavouzet seem to be of one mind when it comes to the design of these performances. I’m quite taken with the pianist’s cadenzas, especially the striking one at the end of the slow movement of the F major 3rd concerto. Bavouzet says his inspiration for this was Friedrich Gulda, but I was reminded of the great jazz pianist Bill Evans. For me, that’s the highest praise possible!

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