Ekaterina Derzhavina

Haydn: Variations & Pieces for Piano

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Pianist Ekaterina Derzhavina (be careful in searches, her name has been transliterated several ways and may still reside in databases under older spellings) recorded an entire box set of Haydn's piano sonatas, on nine CDs, and received generally positive critical notices. She has a sort of bond with Haydn and his quiet sense of humor, and it's also on display in this group of variation sets and short pieces that make up an addendum to the sonata series. There's a reason these works are all but unknown: Haydn's brand of humor was dependent on being able to play with the listener's expectations, and that's more likely to happen in larger works. Nevertheless, there are any number of charming moments here. The opening Capriccio in G major, Hob. 17/1, is a delicious miniature. There are variation sets, arrangements for piano, and pieces that sound like sonata movements discarded for one reason or another. Sample the Fantasia in C major, Hob. 17/4, which was written in 1789 and has an abrupt manner reminiscent of Beethoven (and it is certainly possible that Beethoven encountered the work during his studies with Haydn), and could have been a sonata finale although Haydn composed it independently. Haydn spoke highly of this work, and Derzhavina's sharp little performance is worth the price of admission. So too, is Profil's typically excellent engineering work from a studio at Germany's Saarland Radio. Perhaps this is of most interest to serious Haydn collectors, but there are many works that any listener might enjoy

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