Olivier Cavé

Joseph Haydn, Domenico Scarlatti: Chiaro e scuro

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The booklet for this release on France's Outhere label devotes considerable space to trying to demonstrate that Joseph Haydn might have known the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. The argument isn't implausible-several of the paths lead through the opera librettist Pietro Metastasio, who threw work the young Haydn's way and apparently had a collection of Scarlatti pieces-but it's at least partly irrelevant. There may be a "shared artistic sensibility" between Scarlatti and Haydn, based on a certain bent toward the unexpected, but in terms of technical structure the analogy doesn't hold up: Scarlatti uses two-part texture because that was a common way of writing keyboard music in the Baroque, while Haydn uses it because he was writing technically simple music for pianists of modest means, including himself. The Scarlatti sonatas interspersed among the multi-movement Haydn pieces on the album come off not as manifestations of a shared sensibility but as brilliant virtuoso pieces juxtaposed with placid, even if inventive, Classical ones. All this said, the performances by French pianist Olivier Cavé are sharp, and the contrast is an unusual one, effectively carrying something of the great shift from Baroque to Classical sensibilities. The Haydn sonatas are early pieces (one called a Divertimento, another a Partita), and Cavé is among the pianists who are finding striking things in the keyboard music of the first part of Haydn's career by applying a modicum of seriousness to the music. The excellent studio sound from the Bremen Sendesaal is a major attraction. Recommended for sheer novelty and for some great music that's not so often played.

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