Haydn's last four piano sonatas are intertwined with the stories of two women, Anna von Genzinger and Therese Jansen. These four sonatas also constitute the climax of Haydn's writing for the solo piano with their emotional depth, virtuosity, and clangor. Haydn wrote these works for an instrument with a much stronger sound and larger range than he had available of his earlier piano music. He used the resources of the new instrument to the utmost, together with the learning and understanding resulting from nearly 40 years of composing for the keyboard. These sonatas constitute an extraordinary achievement.
The three-movement sonata in E-flat major Hob. 59 dates from 1789-1790. It was written for von Genzinger even though Haydn dedicated it to another woman who was a housekeeper in the service of his Esterhazy patrons. With his own long and unhappy marriage, Haydn frequently was lonely for female companionship. He was likely in love with Maria von Genzinger who was the wife of a nobleman. In his correspondence, told von Genzinger that the sonata and its deeply emotive character was hers. He wrote to her about this work: "This sonata is in E flat, entirely new and forever meant only for `Your Grace'". Von Genzinger died in 1793. The opening allegro of this sonata begins with a short, abrupt four note phrase which Haydn develops into a movement of expansive lyricism. Haydn, as were Bach and Beethoven, was a master of taking simple phrases and developing them. The second movement of this sonata is remarkable for its emotion. It begins with a slow, flowing and ornamented theme which is interrupted mid-course by a theme of great passion. It is tempting to take this movement as Haydn's outburst of feeling for von Genzinger. He described the movement to her as "somewhat difficult but full of feeling." The sonata concludes with a lively minuet that relieves the intensity of the opening two movements.
Haydn's final three piano sonatas were composed in 1794-95 for Therese Jansen. There was no romantic attachment here. Instead Jansen was a teacher and brilliant performer. She had studied with Muzio Clementi, the famous pianist and composer. Most of Haydn's earlier sonatas were probably composed as teaching pieces and are frequently attempted by amateur pianists. But these final works for Jansen are virtuosic and expansive. The piano writing is of a large-scale, orchestral character.
The sonata no. 60 in C major, Hob 50 begins with a lengthy opening movement based as was the E flat major sonata on a short theme that initially seems unimpressive. The theme is subject to variation and development over the entire range of the piano with long passages of counterpoint, flashy runs, large rolling chords, and harmonic changes. For all the bravura of the movement, there are two famous passages played una corda (with the soft pedal) briefly creating a remote, distant texture to the music. Haydn had composed and published the adagio of this sonata somewhat before the outer two movements. Haydn takes a singing melody and subjects it to extensive elaboration and ornamentation. The finale is a short highly rhythmical and humorous rondo characterized by sudden stops and odd changes in the direction of the movement.
The two movement sonata no. 61 in D major, Hob. 51 is short (about five minutes) and less frequently performed than its two famous companions. The opening movement consists of a lyrical theme and two embellished variations. The sonata concludes with a short, syncopated scherzo.
The final sonata, no. 62 in E flat major, Hob, 52, is the most celebrated of Haydn's piano sonatas. This is a work of many themes and moods and of brilliant orchestral coloration. The opening movement is concerto-like in character with its flamboyantly beginning material in chords followed by contrasting materials. There is a lengthy virtuosic and imaginative development section. The sonata shows a great deal of harmonic originality with the slow songlike second movement in the key of E major, far removed from work's E flat major home key. The finale of the sonata is again brilliant and difficult with a rhythmic theme using many repeated notes.
This CD is the last of Jeno Jando's outstanding recording of the complete Haydn sonatas. It is available individually or as part of a box set of ten CDs. I have enjoyed getting to know Haydn's sonatas more fully through listening to each of the individual CDs in Jando's Haydn cycle as well as through sharing my thoughts about the sonatas with readers here on Amazon.
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The reason for buying this C.D. was piano sonata no. 59, which I had heard on Interview with A Vampire, Tom Cruise film. This music was the best bit of the film and I've only just found out what it was. I've bought Naxos C.D.'s in the past in been impressed with most of them which is why I bought this one. Jeno Jando I had already heard and appreciated on other recordings, and as it happens I am just as pleased with this. The piece I wanted to hear is only a couple of minutes long, but the rest is well worth listening to, and for the money you can't go wrong.