Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Volume III


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0624
Release Date: 2020-11-20
Number of Discs: 1
EAN/UPC: 748871062429
Liner Notes

SOMM Recordings is pleased to announce the third volume in Leon McCawley’s much-praised series of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Sonatas.

Six Sonatas, spanning the years 1767-84, are featured: the earliest No.31 in A-flat major, the latest No.56 in D major while Robert Matthew- Walker provides fascinating booklet notes describing the multifarious effects on his music of Haydn’s enthusiasm for equal temperament.

Sonata No.31 in A-flat major is, he says, a continuation of Bach that seems to bypass Mozart and anticipate early Beethoven: “Astonishingly original music, and not just for its time”.

The two-movement Sonata No.32 in G minor is a unique and intimate work while No.34 in D major boasts an innovative tonal scheme that disguises its virtuosity with immediately approachable technique.

The F major Sonata No.38, notes Matthew-Walker, is “full of that wonderful combination of inner life and directly human expression that is the essence of Haydn”.

Two later Sonatas – Nos.55 (B-flat major) and 56 (D major) – arguably saw romantic sonata form tested to its expressive limits by “Haydn’s original genius” and his “thematic developmental-variation technique even today causing surprise for its profoundly original subtleties”.

Volume I (SOMMCD 0162) was recognised with a coveted Diapason d’Or from Diapason magazine, which enthused: “What a range in his interpretation and how many layers of gradation! McCawley ties these together in a special quality of inflexions which make their point with great intelligibility and sensitivity”.

BBC Music Magazine declared Volume II (SOMMCD 0602) “should stand high on any list” of quality recordings of Haydn, adding “the sparkle of McCawley’s touch is instantly apparent”. Gramophone also commended McCawley’s playing, describing it as “light of touch, stylistically assured and brimfull of intelligence and wit”.

On This Recording

    Sonata No. 34 in D major, Hob. XVI:33
  1. 1 Allegro
  2. 2 Adagio
  3. 3 Tempo di Menuet
  4. Sonata No. 32 in G minor, Hob. XVI:44
  5. 1 Moderato
  6. 2 Allegretto
  7. Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Hob. XVI:46
  8. 1 Allegro moderato
  9. 2 Adagio
  10. 3 Finale: Presto
  11. Sonata No. 38 in F major, Hob. XVI:23
  12. 1. (Moderato)
  13. 2 Adagio
  14. 3 Finale: Presto
  15. Sonata No. 55 in B-flat major, Hob. XVI:41
  16. 1 Allegro
  17. 2 Allegro di molto
  18. Sonata No. 56 in D major, Hob.XVI:42
  19. Andante con espressione
  20. Vivace assai


“One of today’s most impeccably musical pianists, Leon McCawley’s playing is characterised by clean textures and an innate grasp of his chosen repertoire. These five sonatas make an exquisite set. … McCawley’s G minor, No. 32, is exceptional, his measured reading proving that less is more. He has the rare ability to make Haydn’s sparse textures speak fully. … McCawley finds profundity in the F major Sonata, too, its lilting Adagio contrasting nicely with the sprightly finale. … Informed booklet notes by Matthew-Walker complete the deal.” —International Piano

“In McCawley’s vivid realisations …Each sonata emerges as a succinct, self-contained drama, with airtight plot and an endless variety of characters. In the exquisite Adagio of the A flat Sonata (HobXVI:46), for instance, McCawley is all artful simplicity, letting Haydn’s eloquent polyphony speak unimpeded. The Presto finale that follows exudes such a sense of sheer fun that you may find yourself laughing out loud. … McCawley never invites complacency. Things are always liable to take unexpected turns, as in the moderate first movement of the D major Sonata (No 42), when a sudden collapse into an extended minor section not only occludes the sunlight but suggests some unanticipated tragedy may be at hand. … McCawley plays a modern Steinway but brings such clarity to Haydn’s textures than one never feels them thickened or heavy. He’s a thoughtful, keenly intelligent artist in peak form, who brings a wealth of pianistic resources to this incomparable music. Haydn was never a virtuoso pianist on a par with Mozart or Beethoven but, as McCawley brilliantly demonstrates, his piano works are an inexhaustible source of artistic riches.” —Patrick Rucker, Gramophone

“Haydn buffs will of course be snapping up each volume of this ongoing series as it appears. … the selection here…is an ideal introduction to his music at his engaging best. … At every point, Leon McCawley’s playing is a likeable object-lesson in how to deliver livewire energy and thoughtful expression without extraneous point-making. And while he plays a modern concert grand rather than a period fortepiano, his use of middling-bright tone and spare, but not over-cautious pedalling both sound and feel exactly right for the music.” —Malcolm Hayes, BBC Music Magazine