About this Recording
8.553234 - FAVOURITE PIANO SONATAS
English 

Domenico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757)

Piano Sonata in E Major, K. 380 L. 23
Piano Sonata in F Minor, K. 466 L. 118
Piano Sonata in C Major, K.159 L.104

Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Piano Sonata No.53 in E Minor, Hob. XVI: 34
Piano Sonata No.59 in E Flat Major, Hob. XVI: 49
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 -1791) Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 545 Piano Sonata in A Major, K. 331

Domenico Scarlatti was born in Naples in 1685, sixth of the ten children of the composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Sicilian by birth and chiefly responsible for the early development of Neapolitan opera. The Scarlatti family had extensive involvement in music both in Rome and in Naples, where Alessandro Scarlatti became maestro di cappella to the Spanish viceroy in 1684. Domenico Scarlatti started his public career in 1701 under his father's aegis as organist and composer in the vice-regal chapel. The following year father and son took leave of absence, to explore the possibilities of employment in Florence, and Alessandro was later to exercise paternal authority by sending his son to Venice, where he remained some four years. In 1709 he entered the service of the exiled Queen of Poland in Rome, there meeting and playing against Handel in a keyboard contest, in which the latter was declared the better organist and Scarlatti the better harpsichordist. It was through his later appointment to the musical establishment of the Portuguese ambassador in Rome that he moved in 1719 to Lisbon. There his employment as music-master to the children of the royal family led him, with his royal pupil the Infanta Maria Barbara, to Madrid, when she married the heir to the Spanish throne in 1728. Scarlatti apparently remained there for the rest of his life, his most considerable musical achievement the composition of 555 single movement sonatas or exercises, designed largely for the use of the Infanta, who became Queen of Spain in 1746.

The keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti survive in part in a number of eighteenth century manuscripts, some clearly from the collection of Queen Maria Barbara, possibly bequeathed to the great Italian castrato Farinelli, who was employed at the Spanish court. Various sets of sonatas were published during the composer's lifetime, in particular through the agency of Scarlatti's English friend Thomas Roseingrave and possibly through Farinelli's Italian connections in London. In the present century the sonatas were edited by Alessandro Longo, hence the Longo numbers, and in 1953 by the American harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. Giorgio Pestelli has recently attempted a new listing, chiefly on stylistic grounds. Much of the revised numbering depends on conjectural pairing or grouping of sonatas.

The sonatas K. 380, K. 466 and K. 159 are in a musical idiom that is entirely characteristic of the composer, a language that develops to include elements that often suggest the music of Spain. The majority were probably intended for the harpsichord, although some may have been designed for the more delicate sounds of the clavichord, with its direct hammer action, for the organ, or even for the newly developing pianoforte, an instrument certainly available to Scarlatti in the royal palaces of Spain.

Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.

On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, in the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.

On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.

The classical keyboard sonata developed during the eighteenth century, the changes in its form and content taking place during Haydn's life-time. This formal development took place during a period when keyboard instruments themselves were changing, with the harpsichord and clavichord gradually replaced by the new hammer-action fortepiano. There are some fourteen early harpsichord sonatas attributed to Haydn. Of his forty-seven later keyboard sonatas, dating from about 1765, the first thirty were designed for harpsichord and the next nine for harpsichord or piano. The remaining eight sonatas include seven specifically intended for piano and one for piano or harpsichord.

The principal musical difference between music for harpsichord and that for the piano lies in the possibilities for gradual dynamic change, indications of which appear in Haydn's later sonatas.

Haydn's Sonata in E minor, Hob. XVI: 34, is of uncertain date, but was published in London in 1784 as one of a group of three keyboard sonatas. It seems that all three were derived from an earlier source. The sonata opens with a fast movement in 6/8, the ascending arpeggio in the left hand answered immediately by the right. It has a G major second subject and the central development starts in E major, making much of the opening figure before the final recapitulation. The following Adagio in G major has elaborate figuration for the right hand and is linked by means of an unexpected cadence into E minor to the final Vivace molto in that key, marked innocentemente and with contrasting melodies in the major and minor keys.

The Sonata in E flat major, XVI: 49 in the Hoboken listing of Haydn's works, was dedicated to Anna von Gerlischek, a housekeeper in the service of the Esterházys, who later married the Esterháza violinist Johann Tost, a man whose later business dealings with Haydn have raised various questions. The sonata was in fact intended for Maria Anna von Genzinger, wife of the ennobled physician to Prince Nikolaus and a gifted player, with whom Haydn carried on a playfully teasing correspondence. In a letter dated 20th June 1790 he tells her he has sent her his brand new E flat Sonata, although it is not entirely new; in fact only the Adagio is new, and he expresses a wish to play the sonata to her himself, something that would make his absence from Vienna more tolerable. Mademoiselle Nanette, Anna von Gerlishchek, is not to know that the work she has commissioned for Frau von Genzinger was already half completed. In a letter written a week later Haydn tells Frau von Genzinger that he has played the sonata at Mademoiselle Nanette's in the presence of the Prince and was rewarded by her giving him the present of a gold tobacco-box. Later problems arose over a pirated edition of the sonata, attributed by Haydn to the activities of an unscrupulous copyist. The opening figure of the first movement assumes importance as the work progresses, with a four note figure near the end of the exposition leading, in the central development section, to a brief cadenza before the final recapitulation. The B flat Adagio is a movement of particular beauty. The final Tempo di Minuet includes a version of the principal theme in the key of E flat minor, before the re-establishment of the original key brings the sonata to an end.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the youngest child of Leopold Mozart, author of a well known treatise on violin-playing and a musician in the service of the ruling Archbishop. Leopold Mozart was to sacrifice his own career in order to foster the God-given genius he soon perceived in his son. A childhood spent in successful tours throughout Europe, in which the young Mozart demonstrated his skill on the violin, and on the keyboard in improvisation and in performance with his sister Nannerl was followed by a less satisfactory adolescence at home in Salzburg. Mozart's talent was none the less, but there seemed little opportunity at home, particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a less indulgent patron. In 1777 Mozart and his father, now Vice-Kapellmeister, were refused leave to travel, and Mozart himself resigned his position as Konzertmeister of the court orchestra and set out, accompanied only by his mother, to seek his fortune elsewhere. The journey took him to Augsburg, to Munich and eventually to Paris, but only after a prolonged stay in Mannheim, the seat of the Elector of Bavaria, famous for its musical establishment.

In Mannheim Mozart made many friends among the musicians at court, but neither here nor in any of the other places he visited was there a suitable position for him. The following year, after the death of his mother in Paris, he made his way slowly back to Salzburg, where his father had found him another position at court that he retained unti11781, when he found final precarious independence in Vienna. The following year he married the penniless younger sister of a singer on whom he had first set his heart in Mannheim and won initial success with his German opera Die Entfiihrung aus dem Serail. There were pupils and subscription concerts, and chances to arouse the admiration of fashionable audiences by his skill as composer and keyboard-player in a new series of piano concertos. By the end of the decade, however, his popularity had waned, although there were signs of a change of fortune in the success of a new German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), which was still running at the time of his sudden death in December 1791.

The well known Sonate facile, the easy Sonata in C major, K. 545, originally described by Mozart as a little sonata for beginners, has enjoyed spurious fame in the present century, its principal theme published in the 1940s under the title "In an 18th Century Drawing-Room", a transformation that did the original little justice. The sonata was completed on 26th June 1788, the day before yet another letter from Mozart to his patient fellow freemason, Michael Puchberg, who continued to lend him money, with little hope of its return. The little sonata is of a particularly transparent texture, with a G major slow movement that has its due share of poignancy and a sprightly final rondo.

Mozart wrote his A major Sonata, K. 331, either in Vienna or perhaps in Salzburg, which he visited in August that year for the first time since his dismissal in 1781 and his subsequent marriage. Now he was to introduce his wife Constanze to her father-in-law, warning him that she is not pretty: he might well have added some criticism of his wife's epistolary style, displayed in a letter to her sister-in-law, Anna Maria Mozart, in terms that suggest the vulgarity and ignorance satirised in the novels of Mozart's English contemporaries Jane Austen and Fanny Burney. The A major Sonata opens with a theme and six variations, the third in A minor, the fifth an Adagio and the last a lively Allegro. The A major Minuet with its D major Trio is followed by the famous Alia turca movement, using a popular musical convention of the day that Mozart had already explored to great effect a year earlier in his Turkish opera, Die Entfiihrung.

Balazs Szokolay
The Hungarian pianist Balazs Szokolay was born in Budapest in 1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who is a composer and professor at the Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano when he was five and in 1970 entered the preparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy, where he completed his studies with Pál Kadosa and Zoltan Kocsis in 1983. He later spent two years at the Academy of Music in Munich, with a German government scholarship.

Balazs Szokolay made an early international appearance with peter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in 1979, and in 1983 substituted for Nikita Magaloff in Belgrade in a performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 of Brahms. He is now a soloist with the Hungarian State Orchestra and has given concerts in a number of countries abroad, including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987, he made his recital debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has won a number of important prizes at home and abroad, including, most recently, success in the 1987 Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians Competition. He took fourth place in the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1990, when his playing was particularly commended in the British press for its energy and imagination.

Jeno Jandó
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.


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