Music News & Reviews

CD review: ‘Haydn Piano Concertos’


Bringing new vigor to Haydn concertos

Franz Joseph Haydn was a prolific composer of symphonies, chamber music and vocal works but wrote relatively few concertos. Experts have authenticated only three for keyboard, and they have generally been considered minor pieces. This new recording should change that opinion.

Several noted artists have recorded these concertos but none in quite the way that French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has. He gives them such spirit, wit and vivacity that he draws the listener into following his every move and mood. He further entices though personal, individual interpretations not bound by tradition or convention, including freely improvising with a modern twist in the cadenzas.

Conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy and the Manchester Camerata match his approach enthusiastically, giving these works clarity and precision in beautifully recorded sound.

The Concerto in F Major, the earliest composed, is a revelation here. The first movement has sly jauntiness, the second is like a conversation in which Bavouzet is baring his soul, and the third sparkles along in fleet little cascades. The Concerto in G Major is given a weightier feel with richer textures, especially in the meditative second movement, balanced by the third’s sprightly burble.

For the Concerto in D Major (the best known and most performed), Bavouzet emphasizes wide-ranging dynamics, from the first movement’s tinkling waves and the second movement’s hushed singing to the third’s spiky intensity and whirling phrases.

Bavouzet’s approach should bring new appreciation for these works and acclaim for making these centuries-old compositions fresh and invigorating.

Correspondent Roy C. Dicks