Stefan Vladar

Joseph Haydn: Sonaten No. 38, 60, 62; Andante con Variazioni

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Austrian pianist Stefan Vladar, also active as a conductor, often plays the music of the Viennese Classical masters, using a modern piano and taking little note of historical-performance approaches. The booklet for this release (in parallel German and English text) blithely speaks of "the strong presence of the piano in Haydn's early compositions," as if Haydn had ever heard of such a thing early in his career. This is well-trodden ground, but Vladar breaks into new areas, and he does so without making any of the radical moves that seem to be a common choice with Haydn these days. Vladar takes the outer movements at a fast clip, sacrificing the pastoral qualities of the Piano Sonata in C major, Hob. 16/50, in favor of sharply etched details and, in the finale, a madcap humorous spirit. The Keyboard Sonata in F major, Hob. 16/23, transcends its ahistorical presentation with quick, lively playing that seems to bring a surprise at every turn in the varied thematic material of the opening movement, one of those pieces in which the influence of C.P.E. Bach on Haydn is especially evident. The big, Beethovenian Piano Sonata in E flat major, Hob. 16/52, shows Vladar's ability to keep control of the long lines even as he is immersed in small details, and all the slow movements, calm and smooth, make for a startling but satisfying contrast with the eventful outer movements. Fine, perfectly clear sound adds to the appeal of a very strong traditional Haydn recital.

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