Haydn: Piano Sonatas

Evgeni Koroliov

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Haydn: Piano Sonatas Review

by James Manheim

This is the second selection of Haydn keyboard sonatas released by Russian-German pianist Evgeni Koroliov, and both can be recommended, especially to lovers of the Russian pianistic school. Koroliov has the speed and agility to spare, and he can shape a phrase in a complicated way and make it sound natural even if it doesn't accord with the basic flow of the music. His Haydn tends toward the Romantic sound without being large in its dimensions, simply because there's a great deal of dynamic variation in his playing. The earlier disc contained an extremely slow but fully coherent version of the Variations in F minor that might either attract or repel; the five sonatas heard here, all of them at least feasible on the piano, are played more straightforwardly and may make a better first choice. The program includes two minor-key sonatas and the late Piano Sonata in E flat major, Hob. 16/52, all pieces that look years or even decades into the future. Koroliov's approach is not so much expressive as virtuosic. You might feel that the mysterious E major middle movement of the E flat sonata lacks a certain depth, and that the whole is on the dry side, but all the fast movements are shaped in great detail and with flawless technical prowess. Unfussy sound from the reliable Profil label is another plus. Concise booklet notes are given in English and German. Recordings of Haydn's sonatas have continued to appear, to a point where they are almost as common as those of Mozart and Beethoven, and they still seem to be unfolding their secrets. Koroliov's technically fearsome recordings represent yet another distinctive approach.

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