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Jean-Efflam Bavouzet Receives Acclaim for Haydn: Complete Piano Sonatas – A Culmination of Dedication

by Madonna

In the year 2023, a handful of significant recording projects materialized, with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s complete collection of Haydn piano sonatas standing out among them. Spanning over a decade, this monumental undertaking, described by Bavouzet as a labor of love, has now culminated in an 11-disc box set.

Reflecting on his early years as a student, Bavouzet recalls a time when Haydn was relegated to those deemed less prepared to confront Beethoven’s works. It was only after witnessing a recital of Haydn sonatas by the renowned Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter that Bavouzet experienced an epiphany, realizing the full potential of this often-overlooked repertoire.

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Bavouzet’s approach to this ambitious project adds a charmingly personal touch. The sonatas are not arranged chronologically but are instead presented in small, complementary groups. Throughout the collection, repeats are adorned with a variety of trills and cadenzas, injecting humor and whimsy into the performances, while each repeated section maintains its distinctiveness.

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For those unfamiliar with Haydn’s piano compositions, the journey from the initial sonata to the concluding one, grouped together on the final disc, may prove unexpectedly adventurous. The earlier sonatas, characterized by a bright-eyed classical style, gradually give way to compositions of depth and richness. This progression ensures that each moment in Sonata No. 37 feels anything but predictable, and the bold Sonata No. 47 and the angst-filled No. 49 extend an artistic hand towards Beethoven.

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Bavouzet skillfully exhibits the insouciance of an expert juggler, balancing the lyrical humanity found in later slow movements with the sparkling vivacity of his fleet finales. As a delightful bonus, the collection includes several sets of variations and other small yet appreciated additions, enhancing the overall listening experience.

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