Paul Lewis

Haydn: Piano Sonatas

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The English pianist Paul Lewis has been known for detailed, intelligent readings of Beethoven in which he follows his own creative dictates rather than established patterns laid down by others. Now he brings his approach to Haydn, who might seem less suited to it: Haydn's keyboard sonatas, though often delightful, generally haven't been thought of as manifesting the broad public ambitions of his symphonies and string quartets. Yet Lewis, as usual, brings considerable insight to these pieces, and his fans should lap this up. Sample the first movement of the Piano Sonata in C major, Hob. 16/50, for a representative slice: Whatever may be lost in the light humor of many readings is counterbalanced by Lewis' intricate tracings of the unusual second-degree-to-tonic resolution in the main theme and its ramifications throughout the movement. Lewis' slow movements push tempo irregularities and may be too far on the Chopin side at times for some, although his use of the pedal is sparing and logical. As with his other recordings, what impresses is the thoroughness with which Lewis has conceived his interpretations even where one might not fully embrace them. Harmonia Mundi supports him with optimal, intimate sound appropriate to the enterprise.

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