Joseph Haydn Sonates & Fantasie pour piano


Joseph Haydn
Sonatas for piano Hoboken XVI / 24, 46, 48, 49 
Fantasia for piano Hoboken XVII / 4 

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet 
piano Yamaha CF III 

"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°158 
"10" de Répertoire n°51


Tenacious weeds of neglect have until now choked the impressive bloom of Haydn's keyboard works. One can almost imagine the Master of Estoras, disdainful of today's mass marketing techniques, himself preserving the somewhat haughty detachment which - either by choice or by necessity - always colored his fame. He is the detachment of an "isolated genius" (but one unanimously revered for certain works in Europe, from London and Paris to Cadiz, and from Saint Petersburg as far as (Naples), author of a "pure" art inhospitable to romantic embellishment of any kind. Haydn has remained down to the present a composer who must be met halfway. The prospect of his ever appealing to the broad "centenary" public is unlikely.

Which is eloquent testimony to his emotional restraint. And what if, briefly, he did sometimes abandon himself to introspection, disillusion, and pessimism? Why, then 18th century decorum swiftly compelled him to conclude on an "upbeat" note, so listeners would never be left bearing the burden of a momentary indiscretion. An elegant philosophy, although one not entirely excluding either gravity or bitterness, those paradoxical austerities that give an even greater impact to the exceptions he did allow himself (whether the nervous finale of Quartet N°38 or the insolent conclusion of the "Farewells").

Furthermore, Haydn's Sonatas are an especially remarkable achievement in that he was not himself a virtuoso. Composing to flaunt neither his own nor another's prowess, his primary goal here as elsewhere was clearly to give shape to the seething mass of ideas and experiments that possessed his mind for over sixty years. Haydn also finally accepted the progress in certain types of instrument that was destined (as he ultimately foresaw) to prevail. Did Haydn draw as much as has been supposed on the examples of Scarlatti and Carl Philipp-Emanuel Bach? Perhaps. But, in contrast with his Viennese peers drawing from the same sources, he eschewed formulaic cliches, vapid repetition, waves of arpeggios, and dance forms (apart from the minuet). He based his own compositions on the tensions arising from contradiction. For example, a concern for unity in each movement (using imperceptible rhythmic and melodic "bolts" for maintaining internal cohesion); and, inversely, continuous surprise, dispersion, evasion, and contrast.

The present recital opens with a sonata written in the late 1760s (N°31 according to the recent Robbins-Landon catalogue, N°46 according to Hoboken's, a complex situation causing unfortunate confusion).

Unbeknownst at the time, this work marked the inception of what was later to become familiar as the "major concert sonata". The first movement, heavily indebted to Scarlatti for minor details, astonishes with its highly characteristic, irresistible forward thrust, although an understandable penchant for lively rhythms would normally risk immobilizing it. the great virtuosity of the piece is controlled by this determination to propel both performer and listener through a breakneck race. Already intensified by a little-used key signature, the expressiveness of the sonata expands during a seemingly improvised development section that plunges fearlessly into the gloomy regions of F minor.

The adagio is highly contrapuntal, with a succession of episodes beginning calmly and almost severely, and then gradually venturing towards increasingly unexpected harmonies and ever more introspective, and sometimes even doleful figures, as frequently occurs in Haydn's great slow movements. However, the forward thrust never slackens, maintaining the impression of tension and, here again, of irrepressible movement. 

This "dynamism" is the sole link with a finale which, as foreseen, blows away the clouds and, with a virtuoso finish, lifts the listener's spirit before releasing him from the spell.
The sonata misleadingly catalogued by Hoboken as "Sonata N°24" is actually N°39 and was composed at least three years after the preceding one. For many years it was known only in the form of an adaptation for violin and piano. Reconstruction of the original score is an opportunity to take a fresh look today at this brief, concise, difficult-to-perform sonata. The voluble first-movement toccata is reminiscent of Scarlatti. Recent performers have fallen into the error of "over-Mozartizing" this movement, underscoring its light-heartedness when it is in fact a tempestuous statement standing in contrast to the thrust of the D-minor adagio. Here again are two contradictory impulses, one a tense and almost hieratic stasis, the other implacable temporal development. The introspective melodic line, in a superb, extended phrase, seems (towards the end) to resonate mysteriously and distantly within the very mind of the composer himself. But the invitation to enter Haydn's mind, once broached, is abruptly withdrawn in the overriding 3/4-time presto finale Marc Vignal has identified as Haydn's first major "scherzo" for keyboard.

To these two infrequently-played sonatas our recitalist adds, three works that are more familiar, since their composition at a later date has made them seem more accessible to performers. The fruit of a commission received from Breitkopf on 10 January 1789 Sonata n°58 (Hoboken n°48) shows the composer returning to a form that had Iain fallow for five years. Here was an opportunity to do something "new", although Haydn was returning to a two-part form already used many times before : an andante in variation form followed by the release of a rondo. The entire weight of the work thus focuses on the frenzied improvisation at the beginning, based on a single theme, treated alternatively in the major and the minor, and taking rhythmic and harmonic liberties that must have stunned the original audience - there is such a surge of the unexpected, the tempo seems to quicken at such a dizzying pace. The concluding rondo is based on the sonata form destined (from Haydn himself, onwards to Brahms, and beyond) to enjoy a long future. Haydn was uniquely able to combine spontaneity with introspection, a synthesis of opposites requiring meticulous attention to construction.

Immediately following, chronologically, comes Sonata N°59 (Hoboken N°49, 1790), sometimes subtitled the "Genzinger" in reference to Haydn's dedication of his "eloquent" adagio to a Viennese noblewoman to whom he was sentimentally attached. Anyone who has heard Henri Virlogeux read the kind of letter by Haydn in which he declares "Your grace, if only you were still beside me to put some Parmesan on my noodles" knows how jocosely Haydn could express the tenderest of thoughts. We need to understand his blend of earthiness and emotion to appreciate this sonata, surely the greatest in the literature of a form that was still fresh in this pre-Beethoven period. Determination and introspection (again) define the substance of the initial allegro. The omnipresence of a rhythm on four notes anticipating Beethoven's "Destiny" has been noted, but the truer echo of this page in Beethoven's work is surely to be found in the first movement of Sonata N°18 (Opus 31, N°3, 1802). We ought also to note the infinite variety of molds into which Haydn seemed continuously to recast a purposely economic substance. There was, for example, the new piano he was expecting from Viennese maker Johann Schantz, on which "my sonata will certainly sound better", as he wrote to Frau von Genzinger; and then the adagio beginning with a theme and variations (as inventive as the others) that suddenly gives way to a flight in the minor anticipating Schubert (mid-section of the Moment Musical N°2, 1827) perhaps even more than Beethoven. There is the same sudden cry of anguish, the same leap (apparently) of passion into the unknown. However, after 23 measures things return to the "normality" of the initial variations, with some trepidation perhaps, nonetheless (final chords). On the heels of this high emotional pitch, the minuet comes none too soon to redress the balance. But consummate skill and ingenuity (as later in Ravel's Sonatina) imperfectly conceal a desire to say much, much more. The moderate tempo chosen for the present performance is more revealing than the customary high-speed that rides roughshod over too many wounds.

The Hoboken catalogue rightly places the Inventions, Variations, and other Fantasias rounding out Haydn's keyboard works in a separate section of their own. These are pieces composed in an entirely different spirit and primarily in a single mood. Even the 19th century admired the 1793 Andante and Variations in F minor, but today we explore with rapture the rest of this unfamiliar repertoire in which (as later with Beethoven's Bagatelles, but in more accessible form) it is moot whether perspicacity developed technique ("II Maestro and lo Scolare", 1770) or the reverse. The present Fantasia in C major is a sort of pendant to Sonata N°58, the two works being exactly contemporaneous. To be sure, this type of "improvisation" (this is a rondo-sonata after all) has its roots in similar pages by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but for his predecessor's harpsichord Haydn systematically substitutes the first "pianos" capable of "holding the note". In measures 192 and 302, for example, the pedal is specified "until the note dies out". This is not the first time Haydn makes a spectacular call for silence pure and simple, incorporating it into the basic fabric of his music (think back to the finale of Quartet N°38 Opus 33, N°2, dubbed "Compliments" or "Jest" according to the whim of performers). This effect - used when Haydn described himself as "isolated" at Estoras Castle - this insertion of the void into an intimate work (and the ravaged quality of the music that immediately follows) might he perceived as symbolic. Of discouragement? Of a feeling of deprivation on the part of a man removed from outside stimuli? Beyond the dazzling "musicality", we are inevitably led to recall that one year later Haydn took advantage of his master's death to free himself at last. Things were not to be as bright as he had imagined and perhaps he was forced to intensify his efforts but, throughout history, what composer ever triumphed more resoundingly than Haydn, the peasant boy who, by his genius and his genius alone, rose to dine at the table of George III?

Text after Marcel Marnat original.

Haydn Takes off His Wig

Is it all right to perform Haydn's music on modern instruments? Nowadays, unfortunately, even the most naive and least sensitive listener will ask the question, since we have lately been inundated with performances "faithful to the epoch", and with heated debates among partisans of differing viewpoints. But wouldn't it make more sense to turn the question around and ask, "Why confine ourselves to the constraints of that far-distant time?" A composer of Haydn's gifts was himself constantly transcending the means available to him when he lived. Wouldn't it be more interesting - incomparably more interesting - to decipher even more extensively those abstract and thus eternal messages, than to bicker about the insignificant technical problems? 

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet gives us an overwhelmingly convincing answer to these questions. When we listen to his recordings we have no desire for the sonorities of Haydn's own time. Bavouzet's meticulous interpretation, nourished by his own extensive knowledge of style, his exuberant phrasing, and the joy with which he offers his well-chosen embellishments, immediately breathe new life into a classic all too often frozen into a rigid respect for the past. Surely Haydn himself, after a tiring performance, must have yearned to cast off that powdered wig.

Zoltán Kocsis
Translated from the French adaptation

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet


Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was born in 1962. He studied piano at the Metz (France) Conservatory, also taking courses in oboe, percussion, and composition for electronic instruments. He went on to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, where he studied under Pierre Sancan and was awarded a number of first prizes. There he attended courses by Jean Hubeau , and Master Classes led by Paul Badura-Skoda, Nikita Magaloff, Menahem Pressler, and others. In 1986 he won first prize at the Köln International Beethoven-Tomassoni Competition and the New York Young Concert Artists Auditions. His early professional performances won unusual acclaim from American critics. In 1989 Bavouzet won the Chamber Music Prize at the International Van Cliburn Competition. In 1992, he won the Esther Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary (Canada).

Recent concert tours to North America have provided opportunities to maintain his dialogue with Alexander Edelman in New York. Bavouzet's musical tastes are wide-ranging, with special emphasis on contemporary music, jazz, and jazz-rock (some of his favourite musicians include Chick Corea, John Mc Laughlin, and Bill Evans).

A number of contacts were especially significant in Bavouzet's musical life. His 1989 interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen was a great experience, and his friendship with Maurice Ohana played an important role in his development.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs regularly in France and at a number of music festivals (Festival Estival de Paris, Les Jacobins International Piano Festival at Toulouse, Festival de La Roque d'Anthéron, etc...) and also in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia. Notable among the many conductors he has performed with are Marek Janowski, Armin Jordan, Ken Ichiro Kobayashi, Emmanuel Krivine, Kent Nagano and Michel Plasson.

Music and recording critics have acclaimed the high quality of Bavouzet's Joseph Haydn, Sonatas & Fantasia : "... his inflexible dynamics, perfect phrasing, and shared musical enjoyment with the listener are masterly" (quoted from a review by Sophie Roughol).

"... Through his exacting, supple, carefully constructed and powerfully logical playing, Bavouzet takes unerring aim and never misses the mark" (quoted from a review by Patrick Szersnovicz).

For the daily paper "Le Monde" his record Robert Schumann, Grande Sonate opus 14, Kinderszenen & Kreisleriana is selected among "the best of 1994" : "To play Schumann, to organize, without showing it, the flood of his music, you need a pianist with mind and heart : that is Bavouzet. The three antinomic works are played with astounding correctness..." (quoted from a review by Alain Lompech).

piano Yamaha CF III



Sonata Hob. XVI/46 (1767-68?)
in As-dur/in A flat major/en la bémol majeur
Allegro moderato
Finale (Presto)

Sonata Hob. XVI/24 (1773)
in D-dur/in D maior/en ré majeur
Finale (Presto)

Sonata Hob. XVI/48 (1789)
in C dur/in C major/en do majeur
Andante con espressione
Rondo (Presto)

Sonata Hob. XVI/49 (1789-90)
in Es-dur/in E fiat major/en mi bémol majeur
Adagio e cantabile
Finale (Tempo di Minuet)

Fantasia Hob. XVll/4 (1789)
in C-dur/in C major/en do majeur


"Chocdu Monde de la Musique n°158 :

Dans l'œuvre immense de Joseph Haydn, la production pianistique ne le cède en étendue qu'à la symphonie et au quatuor à cordes. L'actuelle vie musicale n'en tient guère compte! Haydn a pourtant fait de la sonate pour clavier une forme aux ressources aussi variées qu'infinies. La 31ème Sonate, longtemps datée de 1788 (c'est-à-dire de vingt ans plus tard que la date réelle de sa composition), est un des sommets de sa musique pour piano, particulièrement dans son "Adagio" en ré bémol, avec son contrepoint linéaire et ses déchirants chromatismes. La plus célèbre 59ème Sonate (1789-1790) est tout empreinte d'un chaleureux cantabile et de longues périodes d'une texture fort proche de la musique de chambre. Après Wilhelm Backhaus, Lili Kraus, Glenn Gould, Dezsö Ranki, Alfred Brendel, Ivo Pogorelich et quelques autres, dont l'excellent Jean-Claude Pennetier, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet nous prouve une fois de plus qu'un instrument "moderne" (un remarquable Yamaha) permet, au moins autant qu'un piano-forte d'époque, l'écoute la plus authentique d'un Haydn magistralement revivifié. Les 31ème et 59ème Sonates mêlent sous ses doigts virtuoses la verve et la rigueur, chaque note, malgré des tempos assez vifs, étant chargée de son poids d'émotion et d'intensité. Ces interprétations ne pâlissent pas, bien au contraire, à côté de celles de Brendel (Sonate en mi bémol) ou de Pogorelich (Sonate en la bémol), quoiqu'elles soient moins spectaculairement "pré-romantiques". Les compléments sont de premier ordre, que ce soit la méconnue Sonate en ré Hob XVI. 24 de 1773, volubile dans son premier mouvement mais beaucoup plus intériorisée dans son "Adagio" en ré mineur, ou le diptyque plus souvent joué qu'est la 58ème Sonate (1789), dont la richesse d'ornementation mélodique produit elle-même l'intensité expressive, ou encore la fort aventureuse Fantaisie en ut majeur (1789), qui aborde par des modulations pour le moins abruptes à peu près toutes les tonalités. Par son jeu précis, délié, architecture et puissamment logique, Bavouzet a visé droit et juste. - Patrick Szersnovicz
Textes de présentation : très bons, de Marcel Marnat et Zoltan Kocsis) en français
Technique : 9/10. Excellente prise de son, naturelle, précise et aérée 

"10de Répertoire n°51 :

... L'éclectisme de ceux qui ne rangent pas les musiques dans des petites boîtes à étiquettes. Il aime Ohana, Chick Corea et le jazz-rock. Contrairement aux étoiles filantes, il sait qu'avant le disque, il y a le travail, et les concerts. Et quand il enregistre, c'est un disque fondamental.
Quatre sonates et la Fantaisie en do majeur composent le programme. On ne saurait que trop exiger des éditeurs qu'ils adoptent la classification Robbins-Landon, que tout le monde s'accorde à considérer comme définitive, au lieu de conserver celle de Hoboken, erronée, voire de mentionner les deux, ce qui oblige à une gymnastique quasiment mathématique et profondément irritante.
Avant tout, Bavouzet règle à mon avis définitivement le faux problème de l'instrument. Car ce qui compte n'est pas le millésime du clavier, mais bien ce qu'en fait l'interprète. Piano-forte pourquoi pas... Et piano moderne pourquoi pas, "sachant que Haydn devançait amplement son temps et les instruments mis à sa disposition", comme le rappelle Kocsis en préface du livret. Kocsis trouve par ailleurs la formule idéale pour définir le travail de Bavouzet : "Haydn sans perruque". (Signalons au passage une recherche dans le design du livret et son contenu trop rare pour ne pas être mentionnée,...).
Sur son Yamaha, Bavouzet choisit d'abord les Sonates n°31 (Hob. 46) et n° 39 (Hob. 24), moins évidentes de style que les postérieures donc moins jouées. L'allégro de la n° 31 est d'une intelligibilité miraculeuse, subtile et minutieuse. Le contraste avec l'intensité de l'adagio est saisissant, tant Bavouzet sait instaurer des climats très différenciés et immédiats. Dans la n° 39, plus scarlattienne que mozartienne pour le premier mouvement, ce qui semble à l'évidence le style juste, éclate ce qui m'a le plus marquée à l'écoute de ce disque : le sens extraordinaire que Bavouzet a de la respiration musicale et du silence. Dans le second mouvement, il sait. Il sait que l'enchaînement ineffable de la phrase, loin de s'interrompre, sera magnifié par cette fracture, cette suspension. Il sait que c'est cet arrêt qui fera justement avancer le temps. Leçon magistrale, Reprise bien sûr dans la résonance "jusqu'à ce que le son soit devenu inaudible" (pour reprendre les termes de Haydn lui-même) de la Fantaisie en do majeur; était-ce possible avec les instruments dont Haydn disposait ou une vision prémonitoire?
Bien sûr, en tout cas pour les sonates n° 58 (Hob. 48) et n° 59 (Hob. 49)il y a Gould. Mais si ce dernier a pu fasciner par son indépendance et sa relecture visionnaire, et par un sens formel, absolu, Bavouzet lui ne cherche pas une démonstration, même si sa technique aussi à l'évidence ne craint rien. Il fait totalement sien le dualisme "résolution-interrogation", lumière et meurtrissures, humour et tendresse : la Sonate n° 59, dite "Genzinger", est l'emblème de cette compréhension au sens intime du terme de l'univers émotionnel du compositeur. Témoin aussi le Menuet au tempo retenu et comme suspendu en vol, qui refuse le gracieux et préfère l'intense. Et la dynamique inflexible, la conduite de la phrase, la complicité en jouissance musicale avec l'auditeur sont magistrales.
Fondamental. - Sophie Roughol 
Technique : 9/10. Pureté absolue.

Selected by Le Monde de la Musique, Hors-série Spécial Piano dans "Le Meilleur du Piano"
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