About this Recording
8.557968 - HAYDN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 43, 44 and 47 / Un piccolo divertimento

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Piano Sonatas Nos. 43, 44 and 47, Hob. XVI: 28, 29 and 32
Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII: 6 (Un Piccolo Divertimento)


Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, near the modern border between Austria and Slovakia, Joseph Haydn was the son of a wheelwright. He had his musical training as a chorister at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna and thereafter earned a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard. During these earlier years he was able to learn from the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn's first regular employment came in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by appointment 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, remaining in the same employment, nominally at least, until his death in 1809.

Much of Haydn's service of the Esterházys was at the new palace of Esterháza on the Hungarian plains, a complex of buildings to rival Versailles in magnificence. Here he was responsible for the musical establishment and its activities, including regular instrumental concerts and music for the theatre, opera and church. For his patron he provided a variety of chamber music, in particular for the Prince's favourite 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 from the violinist-impresario Salomon to visit London, where he already enjoyed a considerable reputation. He was in London for a second time in 1794 and 1795, after which he returned to duty with the Esterházy family, now chiefly at the family residence in Eisenstadt, where he had started his career. Much of the year, however, was passed in Vienna, where he spent his final years, dying as the city fell once more into the power of Napoleon's army.

Haydn's keyboard music was at first written for the harpsichord, with later works clearly intended for the pianoforte, as dynamic markings show. His career coincided with changes in the standard keyboard instrument, as the fortepiano and then the pianoforte, with their hammer action and dynamic possibilities gradually replaced the harpsichord and clavichord. At the same time there was a parallel change in instrumental forms, as the structure that has come to be known, among other titles, as sonata-allegro form, developed. Of the 47 keyboard sonatas listed by Georg Feder in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians of 1980, the first thirty were intended for the harpsichord. In addition to this, fourteen early harpsichord sonatas that have been attributed to Haydn are listed. The early 20th century edition of the sonatas by Karl Päsler includes 52 surviving sonatas, in addition to this there remain eight sonatas apparently lost. Of these Christa Landon, in her Wiener Urtext edition, the source of the present alternative numbering, discounts three.

Haydn's Sonata in E flat major, Hob.XVI:28, belongs, like the other sonatas here included, to the set of six later published by Hummel as Op. 14, works written between 1774 and 1776. The sonata has a first movement marked Allegro moderato, its opening revealing the usual clarity of texture, with the eight-bar first subject followed by a bridge to the second subject which introduces elements of syncopation. There is an Adagio bar and a passage of modest display in the closing section. This returns during the course of the central development, which opens with a version of the first subject, with the recapitulation following in due course. The second movement Menuet, with its triplet rhythms, frames an E flat minor Trio. The last movement is based on its opening theme, which returns in various guises, including a tonic minor version and an excursion into semiquavers before its final appearance.

The Sonata in F major, Hob.XVI:29, seemingly started in 1774, as a surviving autograph copy testifies, shows the influence of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the rhetorical principles outlined in his Essay on the True Art of Keyboard Playing. There are suggestions of virtuosity in the secondary theme of the sonata-allegro form first movement, with its development section opening in a dramatic C minor and proceeding to a passage of arpeggios. The Adagio, in B flat major, offers more elaborate ornamentation and makes much use of the Alberti bass pattern. This is followed by a final Tempo di Menuet, which contains a section in F minor and varied versions of the opening, in triplets and then with rapider notation, before coming to an end on a final bottom F, towards the lower extreme of the contemporary keyboard.

The opening figure of the Sonata in B minor, Hob.XVI:32, assumes some importance as the movement progresses, used to open the central development and the due final recapitulation. The second movement is a B major Menuet, an instrumental rather than a dance movement. It frames the B minor equivalent of a trio section, although this is not so marked. The final Presto offers a principal theme introduced by five repetitions of the key note and abruptly interrupted in its course. There is a D major second subject in rapider notation before the central development, starting with a brief passage of canonic imitation, and the closing recapitulation includes further use of octaves, most notably in the final bars.

Haydn's Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII:6, with the added title Sonata – Un Piccolo Divertimento, were written in Vienna in 1793 for Barbara von Ployer, a pupil of Mozart and daughter of the Salzburg Court Agent in Vienna. The work was published in Vienna only in 1799, when it was dedicated to Baroness von Braun, wife of the director of the Court Theatres. These double variations start with the F minor theme, followed by a second theme in F major. The first of these is then varied by syncopation and the second with added trills. A rapid version of the F minor theme follows in shorter note values, with an F major variation of equal intricacy. The return of the F minor theme leads to an extended passage of virtuoso display, with considerable dynamic variety and a hushed ending in F major, spanning a wide range of the keyboard.

Keith Anderson



The Instrument

"I am simply delighted that my Prince intends to give Your Grace a new fortepiano, all the more so since I am in some measure responsible for it: … now the purchase … consists in Your Grace choosing one to fit your touch and suit your fancy. It is quite true that my friend Herr Walther is very celebrated, … but … speaking frankly, sometimes there is not more than one instrument in ten which you could really describe as good, and apart from that they are very expensive. I know Herr von Hikl's fortepiano: it's excellent, but too heavy for Your Grace's hand, and one can't play everything on it with the necessary delicacy. Therefore I should like Your Grace to try one made by Herr Schanz [sic], his fortepianos are particularly light in touch and the mechanism very agreeable. A good fortepiano is absolutely necessary … and my Sonata will gain double its effect by it."

– Franz Joseph Haydn in a letter to Frau von Genzinger on 4 July 1790 commenting on the fortepianos of Wenzel and Johann Schantz. (H. C. Robbins Landon, trans. and ed., 'The Collected Correspondence and London Notebooks of Joseph Haydn' [London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1959], 107.)

In 1800, over 80 fortepiano workshops were listed in the tax registry of Vienna, a city of approximately 200,000. Of these early piano makers, few could surpass the craftsmanship of brothers Wenzel and Johann Schantz. The fortepiano used on this recording was completed in 1992 by Thomas and Barbara Wolf of The Plains, Virginia. It is modeled after an instrument built by Johann Schantz c.1800. The range of the keyboard is F to g''' (five octaves plus f#''' and g'''); the naturals are covered in ebony and the accidentals topped with bone. It is bichordal to a' (above middle c'), and triple-strung from b' upward. The action is Viennese and there are two knee levers, one to operate the dampers, the other to activate the moderator (a cloth strip moved between the hammers and strings for a muted effect). The case is veneered in curly cherry and has a European spruce soundboard.


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