Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2

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When French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet released his first album of keyboard sonatas, it was a revelation, and this one is nothing less. On the first album, and again here in his second volume in the series, Bavouzet generally took second-half repeats and attached the coda only to the repeat, a novel procedure. In general, though, his readings are simply astonishingly detailed rather than radical. Bavouzet emphasized neither the rhythmic profile nor the tonal experimentation of Haydn's sonatas; everything remains within the usual expressive parameters, and if anything, his readings here, involving sonatas that don't much employ the dramatic Sturm und Drang mode of expression, are a bit on the delicate side. If his readings could be said to be "about" anything, it would be ornamentation: the repeats have a great variety of added trills, appoggiaturas, and mordents, but they're so subtly and tastefully applied you hardly realize they're there. Bavouzet has fabulous control over texture, and the surface variety of these readings is perhaps the greatest of any Haydn performances around. The slow movements are just magnificently controlled and absolutely hypnotic; sample the Largo e sostenuto of the Piano Sonata in D major, Hob. 16/37, for a taste of the constantly changing guises that a simple triplet takes on in Bavouzet's hands. With this album, Bavouzet announces a series of Haydn sonatas, like "bouquets," to be drawn out over the years; one can hardly wait for added volumes of exquisitely well-considered Haydn. Chandos' sound, captured at the flawlessly suited Potton Hall, is a big draw in itself.

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