Joseph Haydn: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Volume 3
Geoffrey Lancaster - fortepiano
$23 (Australian dollars)
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|Tall Poppies and fortepianist Geoffrey Lancaster continue to journey through Joseph Haydnís complete keyboard sonatas. Lancaster presented the complete cycle of 52 sonatas in concert in Melbourne, Perth and Canberra to mark the Haydn Bicentenary in 2009, has recently presented excerpts in Sydney and London, and has been recording the works using period instruments from the unique collection of early keyboards at the ANU School of Music, where Lancaster is professor of music. Critically acclaimed as Ďa genius of the fortepianoí, Dr Lancaster is one of Australiaís most distinguished keyboardists and was the first Australian to win a major international keyboard competition. His honours include the ARIA Best Classical Album, Gramophone Best Recording, the Sounds Australian Award, the Order of Australia, and ACT Australian of the Year.|
This series reveals the genius of Haydn. Lancaster plays with amiable virtuosity, embellishing as he goes, and finding all the latent humour and passion in these magnificent sonatas. His historically-informed performances bring clarity, originality, and insightful musical understanding to these works, the fortepianos responding with gusto to the drama and emotion in the music.
|Joseph Haydn||Prelude in E-flat major|
Sonata No. 59 in E-flat major
Prelude in G major
Sonata No. 54 in G major
Prelude in B minor
Sonata No. 47 in B minor
Prelude in E-flat major
Sonata No. 40 in E-flat major
|Geoffrey Lancasterís masterly survey of Haydnís 52 keyboard sonatas continues with the third volume being released on the Australian Tall Poppies label.|
Lancaster, who performed all the sonatas on fortepiano in concert in Melbourne, Canberra and Perth to mark Haydnís bicentenary in 2009, has used the ANU School of Musicís collection of early instruments for the recording project. He is professor of music at the Canberra school.
This latest album features four sonatas - No.59 in E-flat major, No.54 in G major, No.47 in B minor and No.40 in E-flat major - each introduced by an improvised brief prelude in the appropriate key.
Lancasterís own liner notes are comprehensive and scholarly, and the series features a Fred Williams painting on its cover - in this case My Garden.
The music is full of charm, elegance, wit and drama and the use of the fortepiano lends it an intimacy and authenticity you wonít hear on a concert Steinway.
Manly Daily February 2012
Having last month nominated Tom Beghin's ground breaking Virtual Haydn DVD + CDs as our classical piano Recording of the Year (2011), I have received from Australia this week a complementary (I avoid thinking 'rival') volume 3 of an ongoing project from Geoffrey Lancaster. (I reviewed Vol 1 briefly in 2010.)
This latest volume I found every bit as compelling as Beghin's. It has no "gimmickry" but is graced with a long, learned essay which, after much effort and a magnifying glass in a good light, I verified as by Lancaster himself - he quotes Beghin in his bibliography. It can be hard for many music lovers to read tiny print on a dark background; this here reproduced exactly!
That apart, the presentation is exemplary and I like the informality of Lancaster's appreciation of his colleagues in the project, notably for the contribution of Belinda Webster, producer at the sessions and our contact down under...
I find Vol 3, with several of my favourite sonatas, compelling to the extent that having intending sampling for review purposes, I played them all straight through, feeling that they represented how I had aimed to play them on my Schiedmayer upright (more suitable than a Steinway) in my piano playing days. (I cannot go along with Lancaster's conceding that Haydn can never become a "wholly popular composer like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin or Tchaikowsky"; see my many writings on Haydn intégrales in Musical Pointers).
The essence of Lancaster's approach is dealt with in his cogent section on Declamatory Performance vs. the 'Straight, Mainstream, Industrial, Modernist' Style, in which he also deals with ornamentation and improvised "preluding", which was expected in Haydn's time. The 'S, M, I, M' style is exemplified, I guess, by John McCabe's pioneering first complete recording of the sonatas on modern piano, which I had enjoyed in its time.
I look forward to the completion of Geoffrey Lancaster's series, hopefully as a boxed set in due course.
©Peter Grahame Woolf
In one particular way, these performances of Haydn's Sonata Nos 59 in E-flat Major, 54 in G Major, 47 in B Minor and 40 in E-flat Major are the antithesis of scholarly. Well, they are scholarly in the best sense, but are also free of any stuffiness or dryness, as Geoffrey Lancaster unleashes two reproductions of late 18th¬century fortepianos to bring out as much of the diversion, wit and unceasing drama that can be summoned from these scores. These are very free readings, seeking to express Haydn's amazing reservoir of lively inventiveness.
As part of his musical adventure, Lancaster reverts to a very old musical practice of adding a short Prelude before each sonata. Some of these are based on old original preludes from other hands; some are composed by Lancaster himself at the keyboard. And in another reversion to historical practice, he resiles from a literal reading of the score to add appropriate improvised embellishments.
The two closely-recorded fortepianos reveal the age of their design - they groan and creak at times, leaving polished perfection to a later generation of keyboard designers. These lovingly crafted replicas from leading fortepiano maker Paul McNulty are almost human in their individuality. Theirs is a sprightly, springy sound. They yield a timbre that is very easy to fall in love with.
Lancaster's performances come across as not definitive, but idiosyncratic, serving the immortal spirit of the music in a free and robust way.
Anthony Clarke, Limelight, January 2012
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