Haydn: Piano Sonatas

Chad Bowles

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Haydn: Piano Sonatas Review

by James Manheim

Recorded in Penascola, FL, and released on a small label in New Hampshire, this debut recording by American pianist Chad R. Bowles carves out a distinctive niche among the many recordings of Haydn's keyboard sonatas available. Bowles' approach is tough, sinewy, and directed toward the contrapuntal framework in these works that are usually so much associated with surface wit. His performances are intense rather than dramatic, Bachian rather than Beethovenian. The rise of the first movement opening Piano Sonata in E flat major, Hob. 16.49, to its high points, seemingly chiseled out of a cluster of dissonances, is worth the price of admission by itself. The odd mixture of stress and galanterie in the Piano Sonata in B minor, Hob. 16/32, is bent toward the former, with the minuet standing up to Bowles' slightly eerie reading. The entire album is absorbing, but in the late Piano Sonata in C major, Hob. 16/50, you miss a certain pastoral spaciousness that usually comes through in the opening movement. Still, the playing throughout is technically solid, thought out in detail, and independent. An impressive release made in the far corners of a country where classical music is sometimes thought to be under siege.

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