Leon McCawley: Haydn Sonatas

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • by ANDREW EALES
Showcasing an inspiring recent piano recording.


Artist photo: Anna Paik

Haydn’s Piano Sonatas (he composed more than 50, but academics lack certainty about the provenance of some) must be of all the great bodies of “core repertoire” still one of the least programmed. Respected by all but advanced by fewer, the Sonatas perhaps suffer from being perceived as too intimate for larger concert halls, too athletically lacklustre for the endless competition circuit, and thus difficult to market.

Whatever the justification for this neglect, the Sonatas have fared better on disc. In particular, John McCabe’s celebrated complete survey for Decca in the 1970’s has long been, for me at least, not simply a benchmark interpretation but one of my most treasured piano boxed sets.

There have been some fine recordings of Haydn in more recent years, too, notably from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yevgeny Sudbin and Paul Lewis, but none so far that have compelled me to loosen my grip on my beloved McCabe set. Until now.

SOMM have just released the fourth volume in British pianist Leon McCawley’s ongoing cycle, and in my view it is shaping up to be a new milestone, The One to go for in this increasingly populated field…

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My First Haydn

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES
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Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.

But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.

Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.

The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.

But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…

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The Classical Piano Sonata

THE PIANODAO BOOKSHELF
Books for piano players, teachers, students and enthusiasts


“Since my youth I have been fascinated by sonata form and, over a period of some forty years, all the programmes I have performed have been centred on works in that form. Therefore this book is a labour of love as much as, hopefully, a useful guide to some of the most marvellous music ever conceived.”

So writes Michael Davidson of his superb book The Classical Piano Sonata, which has since its publication in 2004 become something of a classic itself, and an indispensable guide for every serious pianist and music-lover.

Let’s take a closer look at the book, and evaluate what it is which makes it such an essential addition to the pianist’s library…

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Wiener Urtext: ‘Primo’ Series

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES
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“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.

As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …

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