HaydnSonatas and British Tone Poems CDs reviewed


HAYDN, PIANO SONATAS VOL. II / McCawley (Somm Records SOMMCD 0602) ★★★★★

There's never been a better time to enjoy, or come to know, Haydn's piano sonatas on disc. Grossly under-rated, and too seldom heard in recital, there's now a recorded treasure trove available – not the least being Leon McCawley's survey. He follows his excellent 2017 disc with one featuring five sonatas, again demonstrating his subtlety and ability to reveal telling details and inner lines without underlining or excessive attention-drawing. Those who enjoy Haydn's stormy minor key symphonies such as La passione and Lamentatione will find the B minor Sonata a treat, with McCawley delivering a dark and ferocious tragic finale. Enjoy too the aria-like lament of The Sonata in E minor, operatic in a Mozartian style. McCawley also catches the powdered wig and rococo elegance of Haydn's minuets without trying to make his Steinway grand into a harpsichord or fortepiano. The recorded sound is warm and life-like. More discs please!

Norman Stinchcombe

BRITISH TONE POEMS VOL.2: BBC Philharmonic / Gamba (Chandos CHAN10981) ★★★★

I heard Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conduct Birmingham-born composer Dorothy Howell's Lamia with the CBSO in August, just before they performed it at the Proms where it had been premiered exactly a century before. It's a colourful and lavish yet deft orchestration of Keats's romantic poem and a remarkable achievement for a 20-year-old student. Rumon Gamba conducts with a combination of vigour and delicacy for its contrasting episodes – it's an absolute winner. John Foulds' pastoral celebration April – England (championed at CBSO concerts by Sakari Oramo) surges and pulses in this dynamic BBC Philharmonic performance. Also impressive is Patrick Hadley's Kinder Scout an atmospheric depiction of the Peak District landmark. Sir Arthur Bliss's orchestral scherzo Mêlée Fantasque is very 1920s – nods to Stravinsky and Les Six – and totally different from the amiable, but less memorable pieces by Eric Fogg, Sir Eugene Goossens and Frederic Hymen Cowell. Another enjoyable disc in this Chandos series.

Norman Stinchcombe

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