musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809): "Dans la bibliothèque des Esterházy" (In the library of the Esterházys)

Yasuko Uyama Bouvard, fortepianoa, organb

rec: [no date], Toulouse, Saint Pierre des Chartreuxb
Hortus - 098 (© 2012) (57'04")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover & track-list

Allegretto in C (H XIX,11)b; Allegro ma non troppo in C (H XIX,15)b; Andante in C (H XIX,10)b; Andante in C (H XIX,12)b; Andante con variazioni in f minor (H XVII,6)a; Menuet in C (H XIX,14)b; Menuet allegretto in C (H XIX,9)b; Presto in C (H XIX,24)b; Sonata in C (H XVI,48)a; Sonata in E flat (H XVI,49)a; Vivace in C (H XIX,13)b

The title of this disc, "In the library of the Esterházys", especially refers to the pieces for a musical clock which Yasuko Uyama Bouvard has included in her programme. Haydn composed 18 such pieces for Primitivus Niemecz, one of his pupils, who was at the service of Prince Esterházy. They date from the 1790s when Haydn himself had already left his employer.

A musical clock is a mechanical instrument which plays music at regular time-intervals. Its musical performance is usually separate from the hourly chiming sequence. Some musical clocks, which in Haydn's time were called Flötenuhren, didn't even have a clockwork, but were independent musical instruments. Many composers of the time composed pieces for musical clocks. Today one doesn't hear them often from the musical clocks for which they were written, probably because these have not been preserved or are not in good shape. A performance at the organ is the most common performance habit. Some performers choose a very moderate registration, in order to suggest the sound of a musical clock. Ms Bouvard treats them as organ pieces, and plays them in various registrations, some quite powerful. They work quite well that way, and show that even in relatively simple pieces Haydn is still a master.

The other three pieces were written for the conventional keyboard. The Sonata in C (H XVI,48) dates from 1789 and was commissioned by the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf. It comprises only two movements. The first is an andante con espressione in five sections, three (A) in major, two (B) in minor. It has a strong improvisatory character, and despite the structure of ABABA there is no strict repetition. This improvisatory aspect comes well off in Ms Bouvard's performance. The second movement is a rondo for which Haydn made use of the sonata form.

In 1789/90 Haydn composed the Sonata in E flat (H XVI,49) for Marianne von Genzinger who was a gifted amateur keyboard player. Haydn frequently attended the concerts she and her husband organised in Vienna. It is interesting to note that she was still playing the harpsichord when Haydn composed this sonata for her. It just shows that the fortepiano had still not overshadowed the harpsichord. In a letter Haydn expressed his view that with a fortepiano by Schanz "Your Grace would get twice the effect out of it". This may be an indication that Haydn had written this sonata with the fortepiano in mind. The first movement is dominated by a figure of four repeated notes which is consistently played at various pitches, separated by general pauses. This creates a kind of tension which is well realised here. It certainly has some humorous traits as well. The adagio e cantabile includes various passages which require crossings of the hands. Ms Von Genzinger found that quite problematic. It is played with grace here, with subtle and effective dynamic shading. In the B part Ms Bouvard effectively uses the moderator, creating a dark atmosphere.

The disc ends with one of Haydn's most popular pieces, the Andante con variazioni in f minor. It is considered one of his most dramatic works, and is based on two contrasting themes. The dramatic character is expressed well, but sometimes I found the playing a bit awkward. The tempi are well chosen, though.

Ms Bouvard plays a copy of a fortepiano by Walter from around 1785; it is nice that she has chosen an instrument from the time Haydn wrote his sonatas. The organ dates from the late 17th century and was reshaped one century later; the booklet gives no further details. The pieces for a musical clock sound well on it, and the piano also seems appropriate for the two sonatas and the andante.

In general I have enjoyed these performances, without having heard anything remarkable. The later keyboard works by Haydn are well represented on disc. That is not the case with the pieces for a musical clock, and that part of this disc seems the most interesting, although they take relatively little time. Maybe these pieces should have been given more prominence.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

CD Reviews