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Grant Chu Covell
La Folia, May 2010

Jandó’s 1992 recording is vibrant. No. 59 opens a disc with the last three “London” sonatas, Nos. 60–62 (XVI: 50–52). It’s impossible to ignore the gusto Jandó brings to No. 60 (XVI: 50). Jandó was criticized for having recorded nearly everything written on two staves for Naxos’ early days. Perhaps so, but his Haydn warrants serious consideration.

Rob Haskins
American Record Guide, March 2009

Jandó does best in the most genial Haydn sonatas like No. 42 in G and No. 61 in D. Some of the stormier sonatas like No. 33 sound a little too controlled, a little too homogenized. (That’s not always true, though: the finale of No. 47 [B minor] is remarkably cruel and breathtaking.) I don’t think radical changes in dynamics are needed to make the early works sound more interesting. One can do quite a lot with phrasing and timing; Jandó rarely goes too far in this respect, but some of the phrase beginnings and endings in the earlier works sound a little too mannered and precious, even for me. Then, strange to tell, moments where the music clearly suggests more freedom and whimsy—for instance, the odd opening of Sonata 41 in A—are played much too matter-of-factly. The result is never unpleasant, but I do find myself wishing for a little more vigor and imagination…Jandó does, in fact, play all the sonatas on a modern grand, so you know what you are getting. It’s a nice general reference collection for these works.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2009

Traversing the eleven hours of Haydn’s piano sonatas proved to be fascinating in many ways. Beginning with rococo fluff, and progressing through the years, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the development of a style that influenced generations of composers, from Mozart and Beethoven and on to their followers and successors. In this repertoire, the superb pianist Jenö Jandó is like a fish in water—so natural and musical is his playing. This is augmented by the excellent Steinway piano he plays, and the church acoustics where the recordings took place. The attractively packaged and reasonably-priced collection with its comprehensive notes belongs in every serious music lover’s library.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, February 2009

This is a marvelous issue, well worth the listener’s attention! It is part of one of those massive projects that Naxos seems to turn out with regularity—and quality. The label, of course, also regularly produces single CDs and DVDs of high quality. If I could pause for a moment to offer a word about Naxos, a label I admit I strongly admire, I’m not sure how Naxos manages to produce so much in such varied repertory and with such consistent skill, but they do it. They find talented artists that their competition seems to overlook, and then go on to produce recordings of high quality. Naxos has quite simply revolutionized things: this label not only traverses the standard repertory, often with multiple recordings of certain popular works, but it gives the listener a chance to hear the neglected corners of the repertory as well as new works, and at about half the price of the competition. With this issue, the complete piano sonatas of Haydn, we get to hear both the neglected and the familiar. Actually, because Haydn wrote little that is in the standard repertory of the piano, this is mostly unfamiliar territory. Whatever. It is worth your attention, not least because of the consummate artistry of Jenő Jandó (pronounced, I believe, Yenu Yando).

This 10-CD set is part of an even greater set issued by Naxos that also includes the complete symphonies [8.503400], concertos [8.506019] and quartets [8.502400] by Haydn. I suppose I blundered in not ordering the whole package. Oh well! In any event, this set of the piano sonatas features the always-dependable Jandó…Here, he is completely in his element. Jandó concedes nothing to anyone else. To me, he is, collectively, perhaps the most compelling interpreter of Haydn on the keyboard. I can think of Rudolph Buchbinder and John McCabe as viable alternatives, but I believe Jandó would be my first choice.

Try #60, in C Major, where Jandó deftly captures the indomitable spirit in the outer movements, with the effervescence of the first movement brimming with delight and the finale irresistible in its joy. In the earlier works, Jandó is equally alert to Haydn’s mostly light approach in these works. #11 comes across as a mixture of the joyous and dark: the first movement is fairly light, while the central Largo is weighted down with more serious issues, and the finale exudes a sort of tentative return to the sense of joy heard earlier.

Jandó seems to find the character of each sonata in this set, bringing out its joys, its sadness, its ecstasies, its triumphs. The sound is excellent throughout, and Naxos provides copious notes not only on the sonatas, but on the symphonies, quartets and concertos. A must for Haydn fans, and perhaps for those with an interest in the Classical era. Strongly recommended.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2009

HAYDN, J.: Concertos (Complete) (Cologne Chamber Orchestra, Muller-Bruhl) (6 CD Box set) 8.506019
HAYDN, J.: Piano Sonatas (Complete) (Jando) (10 CD Box set) 8.501042
HAYDN, J.: String Quartets (Complete) (Kodaly Quartet) (25 CD Box set) 8.502400
HAYDN, J.: Symphonies (Complete) (34 CD Box set) 8.503400

Continuing to luxuriate in all the sonatas, string quartets and symphonies, I had to resist the temptation to cherry-pick favourites. Instead, alternating between the three genres gives one a much better grasp of this great musical genius’ methodology. One gets to hear the organic growth and development of forms that have become the foundation of all music that followed.

I’ve been a Haydn lover since early childhood, yet listening to this treasure-trove makes me realise how little I really know! So when a familiar piece comes along, it brings a smile of recognition. Given the biographical facts of Haydn’s employment and career also helps put matters in perspective, for yes, there are some works that reveal haste (or lack of inspiration, if you will), but these are few and far between. The man’s craftsmanship and professionalism cover such lapses, as do the superb performances by the various performers, aided by the excellent overall all-digital recordings. For even more variety, I’m looking forward to the complete concertos, due for release in February 2009.

Mike Birman
Audiophile Audition, January 2009

Listening to Haydn’s 52 surviving piano sonatas one apprehends his slow and steady development as a composer. His growth does not mimic the electrifying rapidity of Mozart’s spectacular development from childhood nor Beethoven’s revolutionary caution-to-the-winds explosive artistic upheaval. It is characteristic of Haydn that he will first completely inhabit a genre before ultimately making it his own. Only then are we treated to increasing evidence of his mastery of the medium with each incremental discovery of its latent possibilities. Haydn cautiously offers us improvements and creative alternatives in each work, steadily moving the genre forward in stages until he finally reveals some fresh artistic paradigm or technical enhancement. Like a newly discovered country whose borders are suddenly visible Haydn offers us a rich new musical destination…This splendid 10 CD box set of all 52 attributed piano sonatas relies on Christa Landon’s Vienna Urtext Edition.

…Jenö Jandó plays the early sonatas with an eye to the Baroque keyboard style. His phrasing is steady, his rhythm motoric, with terse musical sentences and dynamic forward movement leading to well-defined musical structures. Each piece is crisply outlined: his energetic playing creating drama when it is needed, a quiet sense of repose where drama is inappropriate. Jandó is every inch the professional, his years of experience and his muscular playing fill these early Haydn works with vivacious life.

…Jandó plays this and all of the subsequent sonatas with a refined sense of drama, greater tension in the music’s rhetorical framework, and a questing, probing musical style that facilitates the search for meaning concealed amongst this music’s many mysteries. Both meaning and mysteries remain forever elusive, artfully camouflaged behind Haydn’s often blithe and cheerful mask. Nevertheless, Jandó engages in a musical struggle with the evanescent forces permeating this music. The future of the piano sonata is glimpsed in these late works; especially when we listen to Haydn’s final three sonatas—composed in 1794–95—where we can sense the shades of Beethoven and even Chopin hovering close by. Jandó clearly has the measure of these works, playing them after years of close study yet always making them sound fresh and new. He manages to make Haydn’s decades of musical development sound as if they were simply extensions of his fingers. Jenö Jandó brings the music to life, often making it feel improvisatory. It is a tour-de-force of pianism and is strongly recommended.

The sound of these discs is uniformly excellent with the Naxos engineers providing a rich, full tone to the piano. They avoid the dryness and close-miking that often accompanies piano recordings, allowing a natural bloom to envelop the instrument and surrounding it with a softly resonant space. The ear never tires as it is gently massaged by this acoustic warmth.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, December 2008

When I began listening to this monumental achievement, I had little idea of how enjoyable the experience would be. The entire range of Haydn’s vast output of solo keyboard works is explored—some eleven hours of it—including single movements, variations and the like. The debt owed Haydn by Mozart, Beethoven, and even much later composers becomes apparent as this great musical panorama unfolds. Given his longevity, immense creativity and fertile imagination, it’s fascinating to follow Haydn’s development of the sonata form.

Maestro Jandó obviously enjoys this romp among the roses. He speaks Haydn’s (and for that matter, the entire range of Viennese) classical language with an intimacy and fluency that rarely bears comparison. In my journey through music, I’ve been privileged to know and work with numerous musical geniuses. What comes to mind in this instance are musical parlour games that were played—for example—by the late Vernon Duke and Nicolas Slonimsky. (Duke’s fame may rest on “April in Paris” and similar hit tunes of yore, but he was a serious and able composer of many large-scale works). He would play something on the piano—music that Slonimsky had never heard before—then stop in mid-phrase, when Nicolas had to “guess” what sequence of notes must follow. He was invariably correct! This is the feeling that Jandó’s playing evokes: It is so very right (like Alfred Brendel’s Schubert, to draw another analogy). Each phrase, pause, nuance and dynamic shading. Just so! One has the feeling that were Haydn to share the piano bench with Jandó, they’d be in perfect harmony.

Not mentioned in Keith Anderson’s exhaustive notes that accompany the discs is Jandó’s instrument: It’s a sweet-sounding Steinway grand, that Maestro had moved for the recordings to the Unitarian Church in his native Budapest. The acoustics are just right: spacious and warm, with each note coming through in crystalline clarity.

I am looking forward to many more enjoyable visits with Haydn’s sonatas, and his other works in all forms in this landmark anthology from Naxos.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2008

HAYDN, J.: Piano Sonatas (Complete) (Jandó) (10 CD Box set) 8.501042
HAYDN, J.: Symphonies (Complete) (34 CD Box set) 8.503400


It’s been quite a journey so far, and looking back on the countless hours of pleasure that this vast undertaking has yielded, truly the experience of a lifetime. There are manifold delights this collection has afforded me.

The consistent uniformity of Jenö Jandó’s pianism is a marvel: there is never a moment of less than superb musicianship throughout his traversal. Having enjoyed his performances of all the Mozart concertos as well, I’m tempted to join him on an all-Beethoven Sonatas adventure. I felt much the same way about the compelling Kodály Quartet’s collection of 25 CDs: they never falter, their enthusiasm and perfect intonation are truly a wonder.

With the symphonies, it is a bit of a mixed bag. There is no getting away from the fact that several, especially the early ones, are hastily cobbled together and do not reflect much inspiration. However, even weak tea can be made more palatable with an enthusiastic and imaginative execution. My favourite among the half-dozen ensembles sharing this enterprise are the Toronto Chamber Orchestra led by Kevin Mallon, with Helmut Mueller Bruehl’s Cologne Chamber Orchestra a close second. Yet none of the others—even where drawn from Naxos earlier releases—is less than adequate, and all benefit from superb reproduction. I am now looking forward to the 6 CD concerto collection, due in April.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2008

HAYDN, J.: Piano Sonatas (Complete) (Jando) (10 CD Box set) 8.501042
HAYDN, J.: String Quartets (Complete) (Kodaly Quartet) (25 CD Box set) 8.502400
HAYDN, J.: Symphonies (Complete) (34 CD Box set) 8.503400

Joseph Haydn died in 1809, and to honour this 200 year occasion, Naxos has assembled a monumental anthology of virtually every significant instrumental work that this great pillar of classical music had ever composed. Just released are the 62 piano sonatas on 10 CDs (8.501042), 76 string quartets (plus The Seven Last Words on the Cross) on 25 CDs (8.502400), and the symphonies, including the Sinfonia Concertante, some attributed symphonies, and addenda to the Hoboken Catalogue, also on 25 CDs (8.503400). The Concertos occupy a “mere” 6 CDs (8.506019); Haydn was not a virtuoso pianist-composer like Mozart or Beethoven, who wrote their sonatas and concertos for their own performance. He composed most of his concerted works for musicians he knew or employed in his capacity as music director of various court orchestras.

Classical music lovers are not a majority of CD buyers—far from it. Yet there are enough people with ‘old-fashioned’ tastes like us to sustain what was once the mainstay of the music industry. Also in the minority are serious music students, the up-and-coming next generation of performing artists. But here again, if not exactly a tidal wave of musically-inclined young people, there are enough of them to ensure that good music practices continue—as can be seen in the exciting new young faces that grace the world’s concert stages.

At a time when discretionary spending is closely scrutinised, great bargains are sought more than ever. Your humble servant has been collecting classical music recordings far longer than most readers of these lines have been around. Without the slightest hesitation, I can state that never in the history of recorded music has there been an offering of such value and artistic and technical excellence as is this Haydn bicentennial celebration series. Other labels have had their Bach, Mozart and Beethoven commemorative series, but at premium prices and not nearly as elegantly nor coveniently packaged as are these treasures from Naxos, which is now the uncontested world leader in affordable classical music recordings…The recordings are all digital, and Naxos has not skimped on lengths: the average CD contains well over an hour of music. That works out to pennies per masterpiece!

Let’s have a look at the recordings, beginning with the sonatas. These are all performed by Jeno Jando, a familiar name on Naxos, for he is a true musical chameleon, at home in all periods (I cherish his idiomatic readings of all the Mozart piano concertos). The Quartets, likewise, are performed by the excellent Kodaly Quartet. The Symphonies are culled from the huge Naxos catalogue and are performed by various excellent orchestras, prominent among them the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, led by Helmut Mueller-Bruehl, for whose work I have a decades-long admiration. Likewise the concertos.

In time for the holiday gift-giving season, I for one cannot think of better ones—gifts that will last forever and keep on giving a lifetime of great music.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group